How street art is changing South Ossetia
Street art is still a new phenomenon for South Ossetia. It seems as though Kosta Jyoty and Karina Dzigoeva are the only artists here who like graffiti. They studied together at the local art school, and now the work together at the Ministry of Culture. He is a choreographer by profession, she is an architect.
Two years ago, Kosta organized the first street art festival in South Ossetia. Artists came from Vladikavkaz and Moscow, and working together with the locals, painted murals on building walls. They even made a video about the festival:
“We painted insects on the black background of one building, and a delegation of neighborhood grandmothers came to us. One said that she did not like the drawing, that it was black and scary, and that she was afraid of insects. We talked, and they eventually agreed: alright, the piece is already halfway done, you can finish it. And then they came everyday to watch the process,” says Kosta.
Kosta and Karina’s work stands out. This pharmacy behind the bus stop was once barely visible. Now it’s covered in orange sunflowers. The mural on the pharmacy was a commercial piece, but they were given complete creative freedom and told to “just make it brighter.”
The most they’ve made on one piece (about $1500) was for a portrait of the famous Ossetian military commander Haji-Umar Mamsurov, which they were commissioned to draw on the wall of a school. Kostya ended up having to give his share of his earnings to his father, since during the process they ruined the loader truck he lent them.
The most difficult project they have done was painting flowers on a dilapidated electrical substation box. “We decided to paint bright flowers. Crowds of curious people came and most of them said that we should be drawing a more serious subject. The Ossetian flag, for example. And there was an old electrician who even called our flowers a ‘dangerous undertaking.’ We finished them, but with difficulty.”
Karina and Kosta’s work begins at night. They turn on their projector (which they borrowed), shine it on the wall they have chosen for the mural, sketch out the design, and then start painting in the morning.
The two of them have already made many graffiti murals all over town. Dancing Ossetians in national garments, huge portraits of famous Ossetian Soviet generals, and sometimes bouncing balls and cute animals.
On the wall of the auto parts store, they drew a portrait of the quintessential Ossetian man, along with a quote from an Ossetian scientist, Iranian Vaso Abayev. “Do you know why we chose this spot? Because it was at this store that the first sign in the native Ossetian language was posted. We were going to do everything at our own expense, but the owner offered to cover the cost of paints and other materials, ” says Kosta.
Karina and Costa are planning to hold a big street art festival again and bring artists. And also start painting murals in the suburbs and other neighborhoods. So far, they have only done one mural outside of Tskhinval - the local government of one village commissioned a portrait of the poet Kosta Khetagurov on a backdrop of towers and mountains.
And they are also planning a project that “should change everything.” The city government agreed to give them an abandoned building, and they have already begun to create an art gallery here, which will be called “Portal.” Kosta and Karina just announced a fundraiser for the project. They have already collected enough to restore the roof and windows. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the initial design of the building is complete.
“We love our work. It’s like an addiction. A good and healthy addiction,” says Kosta.