Giant cats on walls: Odesa street art inspired by the war, but not only

Old Soviet car in central Odesa painted with the famous LBWS cat image. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Any person living in or visiting Odesa is likely to become acquainted with a rather unique character present on walls, facades, kiosks and other urban surfaces: a giant smiling cat with the signature LBWS. But who is this street-art hero?

Cat basking in the sun on Pushkinskaya street, one of the main hubs of the city center of Odesa. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Global Voices (GV) contacted the artist identifying themselves and their project behind the mysterious four letters via their Instagram account and was told the acronym stands for the first consonant of four words in Russian: Лучше (Better), быстрее (Faster) , выше (Higher) , сильнее (Stronger). LBWS added that “This a reference to the time when we practiced sports.”

Asked about the choice of a large cat, LBWS , who is from Odesa, explains that they started in 2017, under the hashtag #animalbws, to represent animals listed as endangered, and included the European wildcat who turned out to be the most popular among the public. “Besides, one of the unofficial symbols of the city of Odesa is a cat,” the artist added.  Odesa is indeed known as a city of old yards and streets commonly populated with cats who are fed and well regarded by the local inhabitants.

The city is also a port and a resort center, where people sell and consume fish, and often go to the seaside and the beaches to fish themselves.

In Odesa, the graffiti representing the wildcat are large — often taller than two meters — and visible due to their vibrant colors, but also powerful text often accompanying the images. As LBWS explains, their art is present not just in Odesa but also in five other regions of Ukraine — and in one place in Bosnia and Herzegovina that shares the same blue and yellow colors as the Ukrainian flag.
LBWS explains that only a small part of their street art is dedicated to the war in Ukraine, yet :
Но так как эта тема сейчас на слуху , не удивительно что наибольший отклик имеют именно военные рисунки.

Given that this topic is now getting everyone's attention, it is not surprising that drawings with a military theme get the most responses.

Here is a short photo gallery combining photos takes on the streets of Odesa and others from the LBWS Instagram account.

LBWS cat in central Odesa with the words “Бути добру” meaning “to be kind.” Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Here the famous LBWS cat is painted on an old Soviet car in central Odesa. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

The LBWS cat enjoying a cup of hot tea, most likely. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

This LBWS cat has a sign saying Azovstal, referring to the Ukrainian steel plant that resisted the Russian invasion and became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience in the war.

This one makes a reference to the beetroot soup borscht it describes as “ours,” as it is one of the most popular dishes in Ukraine.

More art is available on the LBWS Instagram account.

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