Paintings by children in Ukraine displayed in Japan Paintings by children in Ukraine displayed in Japan

Paintings by children in Ukraine displayed in Japan

    NHK World
    Peace-themed artwork created by children in Ukraine has been taken out of storage for exhibition in Japan. As Russia continues its Ukraine invasion, five brightly colored canvasses that were painted in 2017 found a fresh audience.

    "It's so painful to imagine that the kids who painted this picture might now be scared, or crying, in a frightening situation," said one lady who went to see one of the works at a theater foyer in Tokyo.

    "The painting is so powerful. I hope many people get to see it," she said of the canvas that has a brilliant yellow sun smiling in a blue sky. The two colors are the same as those in the Ukrainian flag.

    The Kids Guernica pictures
    The Kids Guernica pictures measure 3.5 m×7.8 m.

    The picture was produced by children in Slavutych, north of the capital Kyiv, in 2017.

    It was shown for one day only, March 11, in conjunction with an open-air charity concert that was held nearby. Conductor Kobayashi Kenichiro formed an orchestra with around 90 musicians who performed to support Ukraine.

    The charity concert
    The charity concert attracted an audience of about 2,000 people.

    Kids Guernica

    The painting exhibited in Tokyo—as well as four others shown in different parts of Japan—is part of a long-standing global art project called 'Kids Guernica'.

    Young people around the world paint on canvasses the same size as Pablo Picasso's anti-war masterpiece 'Guernica.' Since 1995, children from 45 countries have produced more than 210 paintings inspired by a broad theme of peace.

    Support from fashion icon Kenzo

    The five Ukrainian works shown this month not only depict hopes for peace. They are also intended to encourage children in Japan who suffered from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011.

    Paris-based Japanese designer Takada Kenzo was involved in their creation. He even visited Ukraine to meet some of the children who painted the pictures.

    Takada, best known simply as Kenzo, died two years ago of complications linked to COVID-19 at the age of 81.

    Takada and his team
    Takada and his team visited Ukraine.

    One canvas was completed by children from families who evacuated to Kyiv after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. They drew a Japanese kanji that means 'bond', reflecting a sense of solidarity with Fukushima and the shared experience of nuclear disaster.

    A few months before he passed away, Takada described the artwork as "an opportunity to connect the hearts of the world together through art." In his later years, Takada took the art works to more than 30 venues.

    Out of storage for public view

    Exhibition organizer Watanabe Minoru was moved to take the Ukrainian paintings out of storage in a bid to encourage people to think about the current plight of children in Ukraine. He plans to hold exhibitions in several European cities.

    "I want people to consider the kids in Ukraine who are suffering in fear," he says. "The children who produced these paintings hoped for a world where everyone can live in harmony."