It’s not just any cloth. He has recently been fluttering from a large tree in Kiev after a long, intercontinental journey. White, black red and yellow, tied together in a point. And holy too.
The canvas comes from an unexpected yet obvious ally in Ukraine’s struggle against colonialism and cultural genocide: the Native American Lakota, better known here by the name Europeans gave them, Sioux. The Lakota is fully convinced that the canvas that now hangs in Kiev will help to stop the violence, says Serv Wiemers, who ensured that the American canvas ended up in Kiev.
Former diplomat Wiemers (1967) is fascinated by the Native Americans, about whom he this year’s photo book Native Americans. Images of a people who have not disappeared published. At the same time he became postillon d’amour for the Lakota and their sacred cloth. Coincidence, but not quite. In June Wiemers attended a solstice ceremony of the Lakota at the foot of the mountain Mato Tipila (known among non-Native Americans as Devil’s Tower) in the state of Wyoming. He was traveling with TV maker Waldemar Torenstra, who had already crossed Africa on a motorcycle and had now become interested in a series about Wiemer’s books. Native Americans.
A cloth was made from four tobacco pouches, which, after being blessed with peace pipes, had to be sent quickly to Ukraine
So there they were with their crew, filming the ceremony, when one of the Lakota masters of ceremonies told them they were praying “for Ukraine.” Also a besieged people, with a recognizable heroism. What happened next surprised the European visitors, says Wiemers. It turned out that a cloth had been made from four tobacco pouches that, after being blessed with peace pipes, had to be rushed to Ukraine – and he had to take care of that. “It was an order”, says Wiemers, “not a request”. And immediate moral diplomacy for the news-conscious senders.
Once back in the Netherlands, Wiemers made contact with the ambassador in Ukraine, Jennes de Mol. The blessed gift was transported to Ukraine through an aid foundation. Where De Mol, together with Natalia Zaimenko, director of the Kiev botanical garden, confirmed it in a tree on the Avenue of Peace.
And if you want to believe it, it still seems to work, says Wiemers. On National Independence Day, when the canvas had just arrived, the expected Russian rocket fire on the capital failed to materialize. And if you don’t believe it, it’s still a beautiful expression of solidarity.