A new mural art was unveiled today in Brussels to commemorate the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion in Ukraine. The mural, located on Saint Pierre’s Hospital is titled “Grow in Freedom” and symbolized democracy, resistance, unity between Ukraine and Europe. It was created by the tandem of the Ukrainian street artists, the Feldman sisters (Sestry Feldman) and the Belgian graphic designer Teresa Sdralevich.
The mural belongs to a larger project called “The Wall”, developed by the Ukrainian Institute and the cultural agency Port, to showcase Ukraine’s common values, goals and rights through five different murals across Europe and Africa. As in the mural in Brussels, each of them has been co-created by Ukrainian artists and local ones to embody ideas like synergy, interaction and cooperation. The name of “The Wall” echoes resistance, stability and armour, while at the same times refers to the Pink Floyd cult album, a tale of defiance to oppression.
As was already clear with the occupation of Crimea in 2014, the war in Ukraine is not just a military conflict between two opposing sides, but also war fought on cultural grounds. This is because the conflict is not just about political power or territorial control, but also about cultural identity, heritage and values.
The impact of the war on Ukraine’s cultural heritage
Since the beginning of the war, UNESCO has verified damage to 241 sites in Ukraine (UNESCO, 2023). Both tangible and intangible cultural heritage is critical for Ukrainians as they represent an essential element for the development and strengthening of the country’s identity (EU, 2022). This calls for a cultural fightback from both Ukraine and the international community to protect what is left and to imagine paths toward recovery because “‘it’s not just about saving the famous monuments that are ruined. It’s more about saving a way of life. It’s about building back the whole cultural landscape of the city afterwards” (Sisson, 2022). Along this line the ERSTE Foundation in Vienna and the Ministry of Cultural and Information of Ukraine (MCI) came together for the creation of the Culture Policy Labs; series of seminars and brainstorming sessions that will take place three times per year to contribute to Ukrainian recovery through culture and cultural policies under the Vision for Ukraine 2030.
Last December the first Culture Policy Lab: Preserving Cultural Heritage in Ukraine kicked off in Vienna with a focus on the preservation and protection of Ukrainian cultural heritage. Thanks to the collaboration of international professionals/ specialists from eight European countries and the management by the KEA team, it was possible to detect three core themes of the Lab: Public Policy and Cultural Heritage, Models for the Management and Financing of Cultural Heritage Activities, and Cultural Heritage and Citizen Involvement – Strengthening Democracy. Its final report was published this week, providing important remarks on the critical role of Ukraine’s cultural heritage for the recovery and stresses the role of a strong MCI in the development of six priorities:
- A review of the legal and political framework
- A reformation of cultural institutions
- The creation of a political appetite for culture
- The preparation of the sector for EU funding opportunities
- The mobilization of citizens to the cause of cultural heritage
- The creation of capacity-building and awareness-raising activities.
The rebuilding of a country requires both hard and soft measures. Just as water, energy and road infrastructures, art, culture and education also play crucial roles for the social cohesion and the morale strength in Ukraine. (Crawford, 2022). Inspired by the unveiling of the mural in Brussels today and commemorating the bitter anniversary of the full-scale invasion, we would like to openly share the report from the first Policy Lab below.
Please find the full report of the here.
Contributor: Aline Albertelli