Odessa artist shines spotlight on unity

Julia Shamsheieva used to project 3D works of art on cultural sites around the world. Today, it is his hometown that is in the spotlight – and Putin’s line of sight. Russian forces are closing in on Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port city, and residents fear it could be the target of a major offensive. NHK World spoke to the audiovisual artist about life under bombardment and the shift from making peace symbols to camouflage netting.

Missiles flying above our heads

Shamsheieva’s house is located near a Ukrainian military installation. She and her family decided to flee to a nearby town soon after Russia invaded in February.

But Shamsheieva says no one is safe. On April 23, Russian shelling claimed the lives of the first civilians in Odessa, including a three-month-old baby and his mother.

“The air raid sirens go off four times a day. My dad even saw missiles flying over our heads. It’s hard to live where explosions happen all the time.

A bomb can find you anywhere, not just near a military target…in a supermarket, in your house, in your bed. It’s horrible.”

“Every Breath” by Julia Shamsheieva

Invasion interrupts career

Shamsheieva started making audiovisual art 10 years ago. She specializes in projection mapping – transforming buildings and other structures into a massive canvas for her work.

Last year, she presented one of her creations in Tokyo. “Every Breath” was dedicated to essential workers battling the pandemic. It was also a rallying cry for peace and tolerance. A few months later, Russia invaded his homeland.

“Now in Europe we have a big war in Ukraine, despite all the talk of ‘never again’. We have to find a way to live in peace and build something really good on our planet, not destroy. That’s something I want to say to the world.

“Don’t Hate Russians”

Russians and Ukrainians have lived side by side in Odessa for centuries. Today, people in both countries are suffering as Moscow’s “special military operation” closes in on the city.

Shamsheieva’s roots go back to Russia, but she considers herself Ukrainian. Above all, she says, nationality should never be an issue.

“We have enemies and friends. But we can’t hate all Russians. Unfortunately, a lot of people in Russia support the government. It’s horrible. But we have a lot of friends and a lot of people there who don’t support it. . We need to help them and connect with them, not hate these people because they are Russian. I hope many in Ukraine will support this idea.”

Testify and create links

Shamsheieva’s artwork has been put on hold since the invasion. She works with other civilians, including children, to support Ukrainian soldiers, making camouflage netting and delivering food. She insists she will never leave Ukraine – and that she will never abandon her call for global unity.

Photo by Julia Shamsheieva: Camouflage nets created by her and other volunteers.

“We don’t talk about nationalities and borders. I want to help everyone around me. We try to help the military. We try to help animals.

I think it is important to stay here, so that I can explain the situation in my country to you and to anyone who wants to know more. The only way to solve problems is to unite. When we connect, we can be very strong.”

Message from an artist from Odessa (Watch the video 05:16, broadcast on April 27)