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Henry M. Robert

Angels, saints, and Cossacks...

Amulet helmets went on display in Kyiv
6 August, 2014 - 17:18

An exhibition of the Euromaidan memorabilia, called “The Element of Art & Facts,” was held in the central hall of the Ukrainian House on August 3. The items on display included about 70 painted-over helmets as well as shields and art installations.

Almost all of the helmets protected Ukrainians during the Euromaidan events in Kyiv, some bear traces of rubber bullets, some again have been scorched in the fire at the House of Trade Unions. However, the exhibition included purely decorative artifacts as well, like furry helmets with felt lining. Most helmets are painted-over with images of angels, saints, and Cossacks, while some items are decorated in the Trypillian or Petrykivka styles.

Artist Vasyl Vlasiuk told us: “Artists painted round the clock on the Euromaidan’s tensest days, and succeeded in supplying everyone with painted-over helmets and shields. Very few helmets feature aggressive scenes, and even these are balanced with ornaments and flowers. People perceived these helmets as amulets, saying that they protected their owners against bullets and brought calm. Actually, it is a Ukrainian invention, sort of a ‘gallery on the head.’ We have long known the Ukrainian pysanka, and now the Ukrainian helmet will be another such tradition.”

Some artists turned helmets into large art objects. In particular, Lilia Lytko’s installation Light and Shadow deals with the value of the human soul. Helmets covered with different ornaments embody individuality, but the light coming from the helmets through the light bulbs installed inside is the same for all. “Light is a symbol of the soul, it is what we all have in common. We have to bring it to everyone,” Lytko maintained.

An anti-terrorist operation participant, now on a short-term leave, shared his impressions of the exhibition with us: “It features impressive imagery, people clearly put their heart and soul into these things. There are terrible Euromaidan memorabilia there, peaceful things that stopped to be that way, like vacuum flasks burnt at the House of Trade Unions which are now symbols of the armed confrontation. Our battalion also has talented people in its ranks who spend their spare time painting, writing stories, arranging music for their verses, so as to maintain morale, both their own and their fellow soldiers.”

The exhibition “The Element of Art & Facts” has been prepared by the NGO Maidan Crew and the Ukrainian House Charitable Foundation. A co-organizer, coordinator of the Spring Center for Ukrainian Culture and Spirituality Maksym Potapchuk stressed: “We plan to tour Europe with this exhibition, to talk about Ukraine and its fight against Vladimir Putin’s regime. We want to explain what our boys are dying for, and thus make the Europeans support us.”

Some painted-over helmets are now accompanying their owners to the frontlines, and artists are painting helmets and body armor for those fighting in the Donbas. The helmets exhibition toured Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa as part of the project “Peace and Unity Road Train”; it was in Dnipropetrovsk on August 5. The amulet helmets will be back on display in the Ukrainian House August 22-30, as part of the Independence Day events.

By Maria PROKOPENKO. Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day
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