Symbol of freedom Lennon Wall gets fresh look in EU presidency event

Prague’s graffiti-covered John Lennon Wall was a symbol of freedom in the final decade of communism. Now it has been repainted by artists from all around Europe in a project that is part of the Czech presidency of the EU.

Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Over two dozen artists from all around the European Union created new images all over Prague landmark the John Lennon Wall on Wednesday.

Among the artists, who ranged in age from 19 to 61, was this young man.

“The Freedom Wall project is a collaborative project with all the member states, and they have two special guests: Norway and Ukraine.

“My name is Hugo Lami and I’m from Portugal.

“I’m doing a painting of an astronaut with planet Earth as a crystal ball, because for me space is freedom, as it has no borders and it belongs to all of us.”

The event was held within the Czech presidency of the European Union, with the full title being "Wall of Energy and Freedom".

Czech organiser Pavel Šťastný says, however, that “energy” here is not connected with the continent’s current gas and electricity crisis.

“We came up with the title and the whole project before the war and the energy crisis. The idea was about freedom of expression, and the energy that our presidency should give to the European Union.”

The quiet spot in Malá Strana became known as the Lennon Wall in the early 1980s, when disaffected young people wrote graffiti there calling for freedom; when the secret police painted over it, they daubed yet more slogans.

Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Portuguese artist Hugo Lami says he has some awareness of the spot's history.

“I knew it has been used as a canvas for artists, or whomever wants to express their feelings about the political situation, or just do a portrait, whatever they feel moves them.

“So I knew it has been used throughout the years as a place for people to put their creativity – and be free to say whatever they want.”

Some might say that painting over the Lennon Wall as part of an official event linked to the Czech EU presidency goes against its original ethos, as a place of pure free expression.

This is rejected by organiser Pavel Šťastný.

Pavel Šťastný | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“I wouldn’t call it an official event. We are creating an artwork to which artists from 27 countries of the European Union are contributing. Our presidency is now taking place and we regard this as an ideal combination. By contrast with the flag of the EU, where there are few stars, we are placing on the wall 27 stars. Because each of the artists is a representative of their county, and a star of their country.”

As of Wednesday the freshly created artworks on the Prague landmark also included a portrait of John Lennon himself.

But in any case, says Šťastný, the whole thing is likely to be covered over again, in fresh graffiti, within days.

Author: Ian Willoughby
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