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‘Graffiti Jesus’ appears in burnt church

Finnish graffiti artist ’Hende’ spraypainted a smiling Jesus Christ figure on the wall of the Kaivoksela church, which was destroyed by arson in 2006. The artwork was only allowed to stay up for a few days, as the church is only now being torn down.

Jeesus-graffiti jo osittain puretun Kaivokselan kirkon alttariseinässä.
Jeesus-graffiti jo osittain puretun Kaivokselan kirkon alttariseinässä. Image: Pete "Hende" Nieminen

The spraypainted Jesus holding spray paint cans and smiling broadly is the handiwork of local graffiti artist Pete ”Hende” Nieminen. The artist says he wanted to give the burned church a proper send-off. He has been an active member of the church community.

“I wanted to pay my respects to the old place, it just didn’t feel right that the place was just burned down by some maniac and then waited around to be torn down,” Nieminen said on his blog.

“Another thing that surprises me is that the cross is still on the wall!” the post went on. “Somebody take it down quick and send it to a museum before someone steals it and sells it off to Estonia or somewhere.”

Ruins did not become a gallery

Nieminen’s work has high visibility, to say the least. In addition to his wall paintings, he is co-founder of a hip-hop collective called Funk On and Team Haloo, a group that does active youth work in the name of tolerance.

He says he had long had the idea of a youth-oriented church workshop, where the partly destroyed church walls could have been decorated with Christian imagery. He tried to go forward with the idea, but was met with insurmountable odds.

“It’s often the case that all the possible rules, regulations, safety guidelines and risk assessments get in the way of acquiring a permit for creative activities,” Nieminen said.

He says the act of spraypainting was intended as a token of appreciation, and defends his actions by saying that street art needs real walls in addition to the sanctioned plywood surfaces that some cities provide.

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