Amulets of Mariupol

The bright flowers painted on the tetrapods look real enough that some bees mistake them for real ones the artists say.

Tamara Vakulenko came to Mariupol from Kharkiv, together with her students to paint the flowers of the Azov region on the tetrapods.

Vakulenko said that wildflowers on tetrapods are a symbol of life and peace. Fragile flowers are often resistant. They symbolize the inhabitants of the front-line city, which defended the Ukrainian outpost from Russian militants.

“Our tetrapods stand fast on Ukrainian positions. The flowers depicted on them symbolize development and beauty. They grow upwards, towards the sun,” Blooming Pryazovia Project Curator Maryna Cherepchenko said.

Cherepchenko lives in Mariupol. She survived the shelling of the city by Russian hybrid forces and heard the battles taking place just a few kilometers from her own home.

“These tetrapods became a kind of amulet for Mariupol. Because they were protecting Mariupol from Russian heavy armor,” Cherepchenko said.

The 20-ton defensive structures were therefore transformed into artistic canvases. At first, there were sketches of the future works, after, a long preparation including applying primer and drawing pencil sketches. In order for the flowers to look no worse on concrete, than on paper, they use special brushes made of cat hair.

“Our cat Murka gave us this in exchange for a cutlet. She loves them. So this brush is very special, it is only used in Petrykivka painting. I`ll show you now what it can do. Look at this. This is not even paper. You see?” Honored Artist of Ukraine Tamara Vakulenko said, demonstrating the paintbrush.

The idea to paint these concrete structures arose in 2013. Eighty tetrapods were painted to celebrate Mariupol’s birthday. Some of them were sent to Ukrainian checkpoints on the frontline. There, the tetrapods became an unmovable obstacle to heavy military equipment.

“Tetrapods are a symbol of Mariupol, of the defense of Mariupol. And when they are painted – they become a kind of a symbol of peaceful Mariupol, of peaceful skies,” Honored Artist of Ukraine Oleksandr Vakulenko said.

Artists start work from early in the morning, until late in the evening. When finished – the tetrapods will be placed on a glade with blue-yellow flowers near the sea so that everyone can admire the peaceful beauty of the blooming Azov Sea region.