Toronto has a new installation about Ukraine launching for Pride! It’s a massive twenty foot fabric mural featuring portraits of seven Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists. The portraits are accompanied by powerful quotes about their thoughts on Russian propaganda and how Putin’s invasion threatens LGBTQ+ rights.
You can catch the mural on the street at Pride all weekend. The portraits are moody and crisp and the quotes are insanely moving.
For example, Lenny Emson, the Executive Director of KyivPride, says, “If they come here, we will be tortured. We know that our names are on a list held by Russian security services. We know that they will come for us and literally kill us.”
Meanwhile, Borys Potapovych, who directs a queer legal aid service called Paralegals, says, “We know that before the war, most radical groups in Ukraine were financed by Russia. They do a lot of attacks against the LGBTQ+ community – again and again. And it’s one part of Russian influence in Ukraine. They finance these radical groups and then say that Ukraine is a Nazi state because it has these radical groups.”
The mural includes a QR code that takes visitors to a micro-site where they can watch video interviews with the activists.
The mural’s creator, Adam Zivo, is a columnist at the National Post who just came back from a 10-week trip reporting throughout Ukraine. Zivo is well-known for founding and directing the LoveisLoveisLove campaign from 2016-2019, where he created large-scale installations in support of LGBTQ rights – including the world’s first Big Gay Bus.
“Originally this mural was supposed to be about gay refugees – but Ukraine turned out to be much more inclusive than I expected, so we had to pivot to a new direction,” says Zivo.
“In early May, I wrote an article for the National Post about how local queer people don’t feel that Ukraine has a Nazi problem. Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine is built around the idea that Ukraine is ruled by Nazis – and, unfortunately, I saw that myth pop up a lot on Twitter.”
The pushback against the article was crazy. Some people just refused to believe that queer people did not think Nazis were an issue. So Zivo called KyivPride and they immediately set up a filming session with a handful of Kyiv’s top LGBTQ+ activists.
Zivo later realized that he could take the stills and transcripts from that footage and create a mural from them.
“It’s critical to actually listen to voices on the ground – to listen to Ukrainians who know their country best. And combatting disinformation is also vital, because disinformation distracts people from the injustices that are happening right now. LGBTQ+ Ukrainains see this as a life or death situation – if Ukraine falls, all the rights they spend decades fighting for will disappear. LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, like all other Ukrainains, are fighting for their rights and for their lives.
The mural will be up for all of pride. Zivo says that he hopes that the mural can tour throughout different public spaces over the summer.