As our time in Prague comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on my days here and marveling at all this city has to offer and everything that it truly is.  The Czech people have set their turbulent past in stone for all visiting peoples to see and experience for themselves.  From the tops of buildings, to the surrounding walls, into the crawling streets and the stretching alleys, the art of reverent memorials, silent statues, and vivid graffiti serve to illustrate and celebrate the history of the Czech Republic.   These structures and depictions are visible and decorative complements to the Czech saga and this country’s journey through persecution and oppression and her emergence in democracy.

From the memorial of Jan Hus and the statue of Charles IV, to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and the graffiti sketched around the city, it is quite unmistakable that although the Czech culture has suffered from extensive repression and censorship, it is their history that underlies and sustains who they are today and this history is embodied in their persevering spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.”  This declaration could not resonate more profoundly with me than when I admire the sprawling, unrestrained graffiti of young souls and contemplate the inspiration that ignited such flamboyant visual expression.  Because artistic representation is intended to tell a story, leaving meaning, interpretation, and explanation entirely up to the observer, I realize and appreciate how graffiti functions as a medium of expression designed to tell the world a story, its impact far greater when the interpretation is found by becoming lost in the artwork and discovering the message and its significance.

The John Lennon Wall is overflowing with the artwork of individuals fervently and passionately designing, drawing, and revealing the future and life they desire their country and world to attain. The wall conveys quotes and images of hope, love, and peace; images and concepts unfamiliar to the history this culture has experienced.  And for many, a history that strikes a sensitive and painful chord.

While making our way to Wenceslas Square with my classmates on Sunday afternoon, we encountered a wall of graffiti that distinctly and succinctly articulated the evolution of the Czech culture.  The written avowal, “I’m not who I was before,” resounded with me and I understood.  Moreover, I too, am no longer who I was before my own journey to Prague and my immersion into the Czech lifestyle in Central Europe.

It has never been more apparent to me how valuable and essential freedom of expression is and just how fortunate I am to live in a country that so readily and enthusiastically accepts, indeed expects independence and liberty.  While admiring the historical art found everywhere one turns in this city, I had an epiphany:  This is part of the Czech emancipation.  This is their story.  This is their freedom.

 

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