Banksy Reappears in War-Torn Ukraine


Brenda Payan Medina

(Graphic by Brenda Payan Medina | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


On a shattered concrete wall of a heavily shelled apartment building, graffiti of a young gymnast balances on a few hunks of concrete.

This is one of seven new murals from graffiti artist Banksy in various locations in Kyiv, Irpin and the town of Borodyanka, Ukraine. The British artist confirmed his work to The Art Newspaper days after three murals had already been spotted. Banksy’s notoriety precedes him and is sure to bring attention good or bad wherever his pieces appear, even on the rubble of what was someone’s home. However, this latest reemergence of the elusive artist could be enough to bring back focus to the war in Ukraine as it falls further out of the news cycle.

Much Ado About Murals

The town of Borodyanka had been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the invasion until it was liberated in April. The town is a husk of its former self as the majority of the residents have left and their dwellings have been pulverized by shelling. “This is such a historic moment for our country, that people like Banksy and other famous figures are coming here and showing the world what Russia has done to us,” said Kyiv resident Alina Mazur in an interview with Reuters.

One mural in the town depicts a girl in a neck brace, dancing with a ribbon on the wall of what once was a residential building. A further mural depicts a woman in hair curlers and a bathrobe wearing a gas mask and carrying a fire extinguisher. Another depicts the silhouettes of two children seeming to use a rusty caltrop as a teeter-totter as it rests on a concrete barricade. Each is evocative of everyday people and activities with a tinge of danger and strife. They serve as commendations for the resilience of the people of Ukraine continuing to endure Russia’s invasion.

Among the most interesting of the new murals is a young boy slamming a man into the ground, each wearing martial arts uniforms with the man wearing a black belt. The building it is graffitied on was once a school but is now twisted metal and crumbled brick walls. Could this be a jab at Russian president Vladimir Putin? His honorary black belt was revoked by the World Taekwondo as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Or perhaps it is an allegory for the tale of David and Goliath. Regardless, clever political statements are a staple of Banksy’s work. Unfortunately, so is the rampant commercialization of his pieces and the tendency to attract bad actors that sometimes drown out their meaning.

Close to Home

The graffiti artist’s work has appeared closer to home as well. During the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, new works in Park City and Salt Lake City appeared as an apparent precursor of the screening for the British film “Exit Through Gift Shop.” Soon after, one disgruntled artist going by the name “Ricardo Cabeza,” or in English “Dick Head,” wasted no time in defacing the artwork in Park City and proclaiming his own artistic prowess as well as denouncing Banksy as a “communist.” The vandal, whose real name is David Noll, was charged with a third-degree felony count of criminal mischief and ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution to restore the piece.

Already the seven new murals have brought attention back to the atrocities happening in Ukraine, but only time will tell how soon the negative aftereffects will follow.


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