Jul 6, 2008

Ghostly Graffiti

From the "Crate Man" in Melbourne to a walking Dante in Rome, from Buenos Aires to Sweden, street art is becoming more and more popular.

But so far the one that has impressed me the most are the paintings in the streets of Pripyat, the abandon city next to the Chernobyl plant. Not a place that you can access without a special permit, Pripyat, once was a city with a population of 50 thousand.

Established in 1970 out of the need to house workers from the nuclear power plant along with their families, the city was alive for 16 years. Separated from the the nuclear power plant by few miles, it was the closest town to the accident and suffered the most tragic effects.

Today Pripyat is a ghost city, with a weird mix of "abandoned in a hurry" city and jungle, and the only human life around it are the guards that check the permits to enter the zone.

According to Mary Mycio author of "Wormwood Forest, a natural history of Chernobyl", a group of twentysomething Belarusians and Germans took a trip to Pripyat, supposedly to take photographs but the group was accompanied by an inexperienced zone worker. They managed to trick her to leave them alone for some hours... and then they left their mark on the city walls.

Some people, like Mary, find their paintings irreverent. Some others (me included) find them fantastic and very symbolic. Here, some of them:

Kid playing with bubblesKid and bubbles

Sadness in the streetsad face

The style of the graffiti made it clear it wasn't just one artist but several. Some have colour, some don't, and while some fused the abandoned geography with their paintings (like the previous one) some others just (re)created a human presence that is not there anymore, like my favorite, the one below.

This ghost of a girl, in some way reminds me of the Hiroshima shadows, but the shape is clearly a bit more "cartoonish" what makes it less shocking:

Girl at the elevators
Girl ghost
Another striking graffiti was left in what is still there from the amusement park. According to some other visitors, the place is today one of the most dangerous areas of the city as "...the bumper cars effectively protect themselves from closer inspection by making our Geiger counter’s read out rise to unsafe levels." Still, the park now seems to be looking at us....

They are looking...

Blue Eyes

Last but not least, here is a Russian video with some other graffiti and how the zone looked in 2006:

There is much, much more online about Pripyat and Chernobyl. With or without the ghostly figures, just the pictures of the city may give you the chills. Like this kindergarten playground, where toys and a gas mask lie still, as a reminder of the abrupt horror that struck the city.

Via Wormwood, Flickr, and Pripyat

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