Mural on school wall causes friction in Latvian society

A newly painted mural “Tribute to Džemma Skulme” by the head of the Painting Department of the Latvian Academy of Art Kristians Brekte, has produced mixed reactions in the society. People have even initiated signature collections for the removal of the mural.

Brekte's mural is a tribute to legendary Latvian artist Džemma Skulme.  Inspired by the artist's own style, Brekte's sketch was transferred to the wall of Rīga 40th Secondary School by artists Kiwie and Miķelis Mūrnieks. Skulme's quote "We are all earthworms who must dig through the ground" is displayed over the artwork.

While many appreciate the piece as a work of art, others are collecting signatures for its removal. As of August 19 morning, nearly 3,000 signatures had been collected.

The foundation Mākslai vajag telpu (Art needs space) said in a statement on Facebook that the signature collectors are mostly concerned parents, citing "elements of erotic nature with themes of death, sexuality and possibly Satanism" and "trauma to the psyche of children". The foundation in response quoted psychotherapy specialist Ginta Teivāne in saying that "the painting itself cannot cause trauma to children, just like fairytales which adults perceive differently -- directly, but children perceive them with their Being". 

The foundation said that the quotation by Skulme was a metaphor for a civil, democratic and open society where each individual is responsible for their actions.


In an interview with Latvian Radio, artist Kristians Brekte said that the main problem is that

"[..] people are not curious. They do not pay attention to the context and content. They can only scream. The negation is on the level of a father with two children coming up to me on the street and saying, hi, artist, your wall is shit.  I wish him a nice day. I think it is a problem. It is a ball in the court of education." 

You can listen to Latvian Radio's interview with Brekte (in Latvian) here.

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