Ukrainian showcases Taiwan-Ukrainian friendship through street art

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) A street art piece of two cartoon cats shaking hands has appeared on the wall of an abandoned building in Odessa, Ukraine, just 50 meters from the Chinese Consulate General, end of April.

Street art and graffiti are commonplace in cities around the world, especially on abandoned buildings, of which there are unfortunately many more since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. In this artwork, one of the two cats on the wall in question is familiarly comforting to Taiwanese nationals viewing the image online.

Both cats are dressed in dresses with similar color schemes and patterns, except the cat on the left is dressed much more simply while the other cat wears a sleeveless vest proudly decorated with the Chinese characters for Taiwan written in calligraphy.

Interested netizens and discerning passers-by in Odessa will find that with its distinguished clothes and facial tattoos, the cat on the right represents the indigenous Atayal people of Taiwan, while the other feline wears the traditional Ukrainian Vyshyvanka, in colors that reflect his companion’s clothing. . Between them is the Ukrainian word “pidtrymka (підтримка)”, meaning “support”, written in the nation’s signature blue.

Man with a plan

“One day, after the war started, I wanted to find out who was helping Ukraine in the world,” the street art benefactor told CNA in an exclusive interview. “I found Taiwan in the list of helpers. My decision was quick. Ukraine must respond to such help.”

The painting was commissioned by the 30-year-old who asked to be identified as Evghen. According to Evghen, he has a degree in chemistry and has worked in the quality control department of a pharmaceutical company for five years.

Prior to the invasion of Russia, Evghen said he planned to do something different. “Before the war, I had the idea of ​​opening a fast food cafe delivering onigiri (rice balls) but COVID-19 and Putin shit on my plans,” Evghen said.

Evghen went on to say that he decided to commission the painting not only as a sign of gratitude to Taiwan, but also to send a message to countries that face constant pressure from despotic neighbors to stick together. elbows.

“A big thank you to all Taiwanese people who, in this difficult time, chose a few Taiwanese dollars for the people of my country. I hope Ukraine will remember who their true friends are and who are not,” said- he declared.

To express his gratitude, Evghen searched for popular Ukrainian street art group LBWS on Instagram and asked them to create the image using the humorous idea of ​​what he called “Taiwan and Ukraine vs. wrong”.

Members of Evghen and LBWS chose the Atayal people from a shortlist including the Taroko and Saisiyat peoples of the nation due to the former’s similarity in clothing to that of the Ukrainian Vyshyvanka.

Evghen told CNA that he originally wanted LBWS to paint the graphic on the wall of the Chinese consulate, but decided against it after realizing the extent of the problem it could cause. On April 22, street art appeared on the wall of an abandoned building 50 meters from the consulate.

“I think right now you know why I wanted to paint Ukraine-Taiwan,” Evghen said. “Also, I heard the sad news from Beijing about a new law on the armed forces. Be Taiwan aware and stick together.”

The artistic group behind the brush

The Ukraine-Taiwan cat street art was created by LBWS, an art group who also accepted an interview with CNA about themselves and their realization of Evghen’s idea.

“We are a group of street performers from Odessa, Ukraine,” the group’s spokesperson told CNA. “Our name is LBWS. We started painting in 2004 when I was 14 years old.”

The group identifies itself as a team of non-public artists whose name is an acronym made up of letters representing each of its members. They are like-minded friends who love art and have gone from illegal graffiti on trains and walls to more artistic products that have taken on a life of their own. Indeed, their brand can now be found in Greece, Azerbaijan, Germany, Poland and other countries.

“We are a group of artists,” said the anonymous LBWS spokesperson. “Usually our gallery is on the street. Sometimes we also sell our works, like canvases, sticker packs, sculptures.”

Unfortunately, the group said that when the war broke out, they were forced to change their creativity and style, which led them to launch the “LBWS CATS” series in 2021 as an artistic political movement to address relationships. of Ukraine with Russia.

According to LBWS, the movement further evolved after the February 24 Russian invasion into one that aims to lift national morale and civil spirit, with more than 100 graphics across Ukraine.

“I know that Taiwanese citizens, in cooperation with Ukrainians abroad, collected tons of humanitarian aid and sent it to Ukraine months ago,” the spokesperson said of the statement. photo Ukraine-Taiwan “#TaiwanStandWithUkrane did it”.

Asked about the inspiration behind choosing cats as their movement’s mascot, the spokesperson simply replied, “It’s easy. Ukrainians love cats.

Charity through Art and Fellowship

Currently, LBWS has authorized the non-profit organization “Taiwan Stands With Ukraine” to print the Ukraine-Taiwan cats graphic on T-shirts for charity purposes.

Chang Yun-tsui (張芸翠), the head of the project in Taiwan, said that all the money from the sale of the T-shirts will go to funding future LBWS projects as well as helping refugees from the Ukrainian town. from Mariupol.

She said the photo is a symbolic milestone in Taiwan-Ukraine relations, and nearly half of the 160 printed T-shirts have been sold.

Chang also added that the reason for profit sharing with Mariupol is a Ukrainian national from the city who is currently in Taiwan. The anonymous person started the charity movement after losing contact with both of her parents shortly after the war began and has since helped more than 300 refugees, she said.

Unfortunately, as the war drags on, people will become less willing to donate even though refugees will continue to need help, Chang said.

She said the organization had received several requests from mothers to help them feed their children or get gasoline to power their vehicles in order to escape.

Chang went on to encourage people to continue their humanitarian efforts, adding that even just US$100 (NT$2,974) could change the life of a refugee family.

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