#AddingColorToLife in Riga: Cherishing a Rich Heritage Through Art
The Adding Color to Lives mural project in Riga started in an unexpected way for the participants and the mural artist, Joel Artista. The teams and the local challenged youth were excited about the upcoming event already for months. The first day of workshop proved immediately that the project will meet and exceed everyone’s expectations.
Each mural project starts with a workshop, where both youth and the hotel team share suggestions on the content of the mural. Joel was happily surprised, when all the suggestions had some deep and meaningful messages, full with traditional Latvian symbols, stories and identity. Despite the daily problems many of the youth face at home, the workshop was like a huge energizer for everyone and a great start of the week!
Although the weather conditions were not optimal, this didn’t stop Joel, the hotel team and the youth from creating this piece of community art in the streets of Riga. Every day more participants joined the painting sessions and with a couple of rainboots and a set of warm clothes Joel managed to battle the typical Autumn weather conditions in Riga. As the Latvian saying goes: “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The elements depicted in the mural are a mixture of positive and negative life experiences and influences from the youngsters themselves. The challenges were explained by a frightening bear fighting a young man named Lāčplēsis. He is an important character in Latvian literature. Lāčplēsis defeats the bear and becomes a hero of his people. His name means “Bear-slayer”…
The red tapestry flowing through the mural is called the Lielvārdes belt and is a national symbol of Latvia. The belt can be tailor made, including different signs for every person in the world that are calculated with special formula. These signs protect the wearer of the belt. In the mural, the belt continues through two wall panels. Stark is a symbol of blessing, freedom, changes, happiness and was used on Latvian currency (LVL-lats) before we switched to euros.
Leima, the Baltic goddess of fate, plays also an important role in the mural. She is representing the rich Baltic heritage, something valued by the youth. That is not always common in a developing and globalizing culture. These youngers cherish their own heritage and bring this to life with this beautiful image of Leima.