- Posted February 20, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Ukraine - Solidarity Via @ElectronicSocialArt
As the death toll mounts in Kyiv, I browse through my photos of the barricades on Maidan, or Independence Square, now burning. The command centre for the opposition, with the international press centre where I could interview opposition politicians earlier this month, is in flames. I think back to my discussions with average Ukrainians on the streets in Kyiv and Odessa. Here are some of those moments from February, 2014.
Speaking from Maidan, Volodymyr Ariev, an opposition politician, says, “It’s the birth of civil society in Ukraine, when people wake up and start to fight for their rights. I cannot say that it is a revolution. It’s evolution of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian society.”
Instagram video: http://instagram.com/p/j_uvtpx3-3/
As I interview people in Russian, spoken fluently by most Ukrainians, it's clear that for many the struggle for day-to-day survival is their top priority. Some angrily say that the protestors are paid by the West and that's why they aren't at work. Others say that they would be there too if they didn't have to work. Opinions differ. But the facts remain: life is increasingly expensive in Ukraine. Even milk, I notice, is more expensive here than in France, while it is said that the average Kyiv salary is around 500 USD per month. In other smaller towns and places outside of the big cities, it is around 150 to 300 USD. The gas comes from Russia. When it's minus 20 Celsius and your family is cold, what choice do you have but to pay what is asked? And this is part of the complexity of the situation. Concessions have to be made. A regional interdependence is an unavoidable and very present reality. Ukraine must continue independent. Is EU integration the best option for a country "where a thousand years ago Russia was born out of," as one taxi driver explained to me?
The taxi driver continues, “The opposition in Ukraine is not for unity with Russia. They want to divide our country. This is my opinion. I’m for Yanukovych, for unity in our country.”
Instagram video: http://instagram.com/p/kCry5Mx32x/
In the same city close to Odessa, a youth speaks for so many others of Ukraine. “People who react negatively, and tell the protestors to leave Maidan, don’t understand the benefits that European integration would bring to us. People need to continue to fight for independence and for a better life, and this can only happen through EU integration.”
Instagram video: http://instagram.com/p/kDGctax366/
As I’m guided by an assistant to one of the opposition deputies through the carnage of Kyiv’s Hrushevsky Street, she says, “As Mikhail Hrushevsky waited for help in vain from Europe during the October revolution, we believe that our hope is not in Europe for help, but that we have to depend upon ourselves as Ukrainians.”
Instagram video: http://instagram.com/p/j6H7Z3R3-k/
We walk past protestors playing football to keep warm on the usually busy-with-traffic European Square. A young man poses on the top of a burnt-out car for his friend to take a photo of him.
When I had arrived at Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport, my taxi driver voiced another opinion of the unrest. “The West, Washington and London, have paid thugs to sow unrest among our peace-loving people. The president needs to come down hard on them - clean them out from Maidan - so that we can all go on taking care of what is most important, our families.” He went on to say, “Of course these “protestors” are being paid! Who else would have the time to go and sit on Independence Square if they didn’t get money for it?”
Another person from Odessa region replies to my request for his opinion on the situation. “Change is necessary. If people are passive, things can only get worse. This is why it is necessary to stand up - to fight for what is right - for democracy.” Instagram video: http://instagram.com/p/j_jK7Mx30_/
Earlier at the press centre, now in ashes, where the command centre for the opposition was based, I was told about the atrocities committed against journalists. My guide explained why the journalists and cameramen are wearing helmets. They need this for protection, but they are also wearing it as a symbol of protest against the gross violations of rights being committed against journalists, and the people of Ukraine.
Instagram video of command centre entrance, with photos of missing persons: http://instagram.com/p/j4bcdzR34l/
For the week that I was in Ukraine, our global @applifam community, part of the Electronic Social Art Forum (@electronicsocialart on Instagram), did a week of @applifam activities to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Highlights from social media artists across the world may be seen on www.instagram.com/applifam by scrolling through posts from the first week of February, 2014: http://instagram.com/p/jxIIfLG7NA/.
Johan du Toit is the founder of the Electronic Social Art Forum. Based in Normandy, his French association is developing a concept of mobile photography and electronic art shared via social media as a tool for mass-media and socially cohesive communication.
Follow @jvdt on Instagram and Twitter.
Electronic Social Art – pictorial power and the matrix of new media
The topic of revolution is trending globally. A new era has dawned and with it, the coming of age of a powerful platform, born out of the marriage of visual reporting and new media communication. Photo journaling that focuses on a local context can now speak to a global audience like never before. Social Media has given a voice to the formerly voiceless, a communicative advantage to the previously disadvantaged, and a digital pen that is mightier than the sword of censorship. In this revolving, changing world, a 360-degree view is needed to see where we have come from, where we are, and where we are heading, in order to take the necessary action that will ensure cohesion and progress for the next generation.
What is Electronic Social Art?
From a mobile platform, whether smartphone or tablet, visual and verbal expression fueled by pictorial power is channeled through internet- and cloud-based new media tools, and experienced in the showroom of social media. Electronic, because it is digital, innovative, and a product of the times; Social, because it addresses society for the sake of cultural cohesion via compassionate communication; Art, because it speaks to and from the heart. It brings to light the link between past, present and future in its mission to “photograph” (from Greek “to write with light”) a collective vision of humanity that allows integration of solutions into problem areas in order to nurture growth.