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Arts Commons honouring Ukrainian culture for the month of April


With the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine come and gone, Arts Commons is hosting artists with ties to the war-torn country to showcase their talents.

Sarah Garton Stanley, known as SGS, is Arts Common's vice-president of programming and says the Ukrainian art forms highlighted for the month are a reflection of the fight and spirit of the people and how important their culture is to them and to the world.

"For people to be able to express their pain, their worry, their concern, their positions, absolutely," said Stanley. "But really, it's just to be able to say we see you, we hear you and we understand that you are in a really critical moment in the history of your culture."

Stanley says at the beginning of the war, the expectation was that it would be over in a few weeks but now -- as it drags on into a third year with no end in sight -- Ukrainian culture is at risk.

"When I think about reconciliation, when I think about what it means to be able to allow voices to exist, to live, to work together, I would say that Ukraine is in a very similar moment in their history," said Stanley. "Fighting for their right, their identity, their capacity to be."


This month, Arts Commons is hosting DakhaBrakha from Kyiv, which takes audiences on a roller coaster of rhythmic storytelling and folk culture rooted in traditional Ukrainian sounds while inspiring cultural and artistic liberation.

Iryna Kalinovich and Khrystyna Kolodii will host performances using a traditional bandura and singing folk songs.

Kalinovich arrived in Calgary 11 years ago and still has many family members living in Ukraine.

"It's very important during this very difficult time for Ukraine, it's kind of being cultural ambassadors," she said. "We Ukrainians, we have rich culture and we fight for democracy in the world."

Noble Seggie is a self-taught pysanky artist who's set up their equipment in the Lightbox Studio at Arts Commons.

Seggie has a number of hollowed-out eggs ready to work on, along with many finished eggs on display. The studio is designed with a wall of windows for the public to see the work in progress and that's something Seggie isn't used to.

"Just having people stop by and look, it's actually it's really nice to get that recognition from the community," they said.

Seggie is a third generation Ukrainian Canadian and says many of the finished eggs tell a story and they were inspired to act when the war started.

"I was really taken aback by Putin's government saying there's no such thing as a Ukrainian culture," said Seggie. "So I wanted to kind of capture my own experiences and how I felt about the strong culture."

Seggie draws a design onto an egg with a pencil. Then traces over it with a kistka that leaves a trail of wax behind.

"It's filled with beeswax and you write the design right on the eggshell, once you've got that one color done, you put it in the dye, and then it's ready for that next color," they said. "It's an iterative process of wax and then die creating layers until you've got that final piece and you melt all the wax off and you've got an amazing piece."

Seggie is happy to be part of the month-long event at Arts Commons and hopes Ukrainians displaced by the war come to see their work along with the other featured artists.

"Helping them feel more comfortable here, whether they're here forever, or whether they're here just until the war is over is really, really important," they said.

Learn more about Ukrainian artists at Arts Commons here: Top Stories

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