Last Friday, July 10th, urban artist and photographer Falk Lehmann better known as AKUT finished a giant, radiant mural in Mannheim, Germany. Invited by Stand.Wand.Kunst, an urban art project initialized by the “Alte Feuerwache”, which invites national and international artist to paint Mannheims grey walls each summer since 2013, and in cooperation with filmmaker and photographer Luigi Toscano, AKUT created his interpretation of the project “LEST WE FORGET” to honor the survivors of the Holocaust.
The mural shows two quotes on two giant portraits with photorealistic eyes that tell stories so incredibly disturbing, that many people are likely avoiding the confrontation. Out of a series of more than 400 portrayed survivors, Toscano has photographed all over the globe so far, AKUT chose Horst Sommerfeld and Bella Shirin to become the protagonists of this mural, which unintentionally also turned out to be the largest of its kind. The mural itself represents two different approaches of coping with personal fates as well as the events, that have happened during the exhibitions of Toscano’s portraits in more than 15 places like Kyiv, New York City, Washington D.C., Berlin and Vienna with the kick off in Mannheim back in 2015.
Horst and Bella stand for opposites and similarities: woman – man; first and second generation survivors; both are victims of the Holocaust, directly and indirectly; alive and unfortunately already passed away. The bottom part of the mural focuses on the vigils and the solidarity experienced with the project when the portraits have been vandalized while on exhibition in Vienna in 2019. Many people gathering in rough silhouettes protect the protagonists.
For AKUT it was important to not work with common manners when dealing with history. Thus he decided to work with bright shining colours instead of painting fading black and white portraits to emphasize the importance of remembering the past and self reflecting our ways of dealing with it. Soon there will also be a board with a QR code added to the mural. By scanning the code the audience gets the opportunity to listen to reports of the protagonists in order to dive one level deeper into their real stories and start further confrontation.
Prospectively this mural will become the first of an ongoing series with more spots in different cities worldwide. By choosing a different medium like street art the aim is to reach out to a different and wider audience that might not have decided to deal with this important part of our history intentionally.
Scroll down below to see more images of the mural.