Cover & Conceal: A Gift To Ukraine
in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia & True Patriot Love Foundation
For this collaborative project, artist and Veteran Jessica Lynn Wiebe facilitated a series of community-based workshops at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Participants hand made two large camouflage nets (14 x 50 feet) using old clothing and fabric materials. The camouflage techniques and patterns are based on military instructions from WW1 and WW2.
Since the full-on invasion of Ukraine by Russia this past February, we have seen coverage in the media of Ukrainian men, women, and children coming together to make the same camouflage nets by hand to be sent to their troops on the front lines.
Hundreds of participants from across Canada, the United States, and from around the world helped in making these nets - each person paused for a moment to think about Ukraine - in the context of global war, conflict, and peace. It was an opportunity to offer their support to Ukraine through the physical act of making.
These workshops allowed for a deeper conversation and reflection on the importance of supporting military communities and those impacted by war and conflict. Through collaborative initiatives in the arts, we can generate greater understanding of others' lived experience. While participants added to the nets, they engaged in dialogue on war and conflict — many stories reflected military, ancestral, immigration, and refugee narratives. People recognized that we may not see active combat on our streets in Canada but we are all directly impacted by it.
Wiebe's life experiences and artistic training provided her with the tools to create a safe gathering space to raise awareness and encourage dialogue. Wiebe states:
Military tactics define the difference between “cover and conceal”. Camouflage is an example of concealment only. It is a permeable boundary, like a membrane, though it only hides an object or person. Cover refers to a physical barrier that stops bullets such as concrete, sandbags, or a tree. The military as an institution, has its own membrane that is not as permeable. Military language, experience, and security create an invisible wall between military members and veterans, and civilians. This project aims to bridge this gap between civilians and the military community.
On March 27th 2023, the shipment of nets, along with a book full of messages from those who helped make the nets, 100 Canadian chocolate bars, and two bottles of maple syrup to lift the spirits of the troops, made it to a Ukrainian military unit fighting just north of Bakhmut.
The three large nets created in Nova Scotia are now providing concealment for Ukrainians on the frontlines. Continuing this initiative into other parts of Canada, Wiebe will head to Ottawa for another net-making community project with the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) for CANSEC 2023. Art for protection.
Thank you to all who contributed to and supported Cover and Conceal: A Gift to Ukraine.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is committed to developing collaborative art experiences that enhance individual well-being and collective care in communities. Cover & Conceal is a project designed by artist and Veteran Jessica Lynn Wiebe in partnership with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and True Patriot Love Foundation, Canada's leading national foundation supporting its military.
This project is part of True Patriot Love's commitment to community-engaged arts with the launch of their inaugural Military Creative Arts Initiative. This Initiative is designed to develop a national framework for the role of the creative arts in the rehabilitation and recovery of serving Members and Veterans.
Scraps of torn/cut up fabric materials laying in a pile before being tied and woven onto the camouflage nets.
Women hand make camouflage nets during WW2 (left) and Ukrainians hand make camouflage nets in Ukraine 2022 (right). Image sources unknown.
Documentation of the workshops at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
During the making of this project we placed a notebook beside the nets in progress so that participants could sign their name, where they are from, and write a message to Ukraine. These notes are woven through the image gallery below.