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Banksy On A Stamp

March 2, 2023
A postage stamp featuring a graffiti mural of a small boy and a brown man sparring in judo outfits. The boy is throwing the man onto his back. The stamp also features the trident of Ukraine's coat of arms in the top right, and an abbreviated Ukrainian phrase that roughly translates to "Putin is a Dickhead!" in the bottom left.

Ukraine’s new stamps featuring a mural by Banksy

In November, locals in and around Kyiv discovered several murals by the British street artist Banksy. About a month later, eight people were detained trying to remove a wall segment containing a mural, leading Kyiv’s Regional Military Administration to install protective polycarbonate coverings. Motion sensors and alarms will also protect the paintings. Of course, the fact that they exist in a warzone is another reason for the protective measures. However, the graffiti works have become such recognizable symbols of Ukraine’s ongoing struggle that they must be protected for another reason: one will soon be featured on a Ukrainian stamp.

In the village of Borodyanka, right outside Kyiv, Banksy created an image of a grown man and a small boy sparring in judo outfits and black belts. The boy is flipping the man onto his back, and has mainly been interpreted in one of two ways. Not only is it a reference to Vladimir Putin’s love of martial arts, but the image itself symbolizes the conflict. Before and in the initial stages of the invasion, the world saw Russia’s military as an unstoppable force. Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was viewed not as a competent leader but as a comedian who was elected president. And now, the Russian army has been pushed back out of the country’s northeast, while domestic protests and allegations of torture weaken Putin’s position at home. So the larger, more intimidating man has indeed been flipped onto his back by the seemingly defenseless child.

Regarding the new stamp, probably the most surprising part is the bottom left-hand corner, where an abbreviation of the Ukrainian phrase “Putin Khuylo!” is present in all caps. The phrase approximately translates to “Putin is a dickhead!” While it originated as a chant used by Ukrainian soccer fans during the annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has become more recognizable globally since the Russian invasion.

When the Ukrainian government began selling stamps featuring this mural a few days ago, Kyiv’s central post office saw incredibly long lines of people waiting to buy some. According to Ihor Smilianskyi, the head of the Ukrainian Postal Service, “We thought that this exact stamp, this exact painting would be the best representation of what every Ukrainian feels about our enemy”.