Putting a spotlight on art and cultural heritage in wartime Ukraine
On 17 May, Dr Natalia Moussienko, Vice-President of Europa Nostra from Ukraine, held the lecture “Art and Cultural Heritage in Wartime Ukraine” at the EU Info Center in Belgrade. It was part of a series of events that took place in Belgrade on 17-20 May to mark Europa Nostra’s 60th Anniversary and the launch of the European Heritage Hub.
The lecture was made possible thanks to Europa Nostra Serbia, the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade and the Embassy of Ukraine to the Republic of Serbia, with the support of the EU Info Centre in Belgrade. Volodymyr Tolkach, Ambassador of Ukraine to Serbia, Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, a high-level delegation of Europa Nostra led by Sneška Quaedvlieg–Mihailović, Secretary General, Jimmy Jamar, Head of the Brussels Office, and Robert Quarles van Ufford, Council member from The Netherlands, and a delegation of Europa Nostra Serbia led by its President Irina Subotic, joined the lecture.
Natalia Moussienko presented her analysis of Art in War in Ukraine that has already resulted in enormous artistic creativity. She recalled the Maidan Revolution (Revolution of Dignity) in winter 2013-2014 which led to complex collective artistic expression filled with emotion and creativity. “For Ukrainians, the cultural and performative dimensions of Maidan marked a critical turn from the old Soviet paradigms. New narratives entered the Ukrainian artistic discourse: from calls for Euro-integration to social mobilisation for civil rights and, later, the battle for the Motherland, which was highlighted by many artists,” she stated.
In her presentation, Dr Moussienko evoked the new heroic war narratives which followed the invasion of Russia in February 2022 in all areas and genres of Ukrainian art, including mainly street art but also novels and films, theatre and music, pointing out that social networks remain the best promoter of art and often its producer. She presented many artistic projects created since the beginning of Russia’s invasion and showed street art in support of Ukraine from across the globe, including Europe, USA and Australia.
“The artistic representations of the Russo-Ukrainian war are significant for the global picturing of Art in War that is an important phenomenon for philosophy, art theory, sociology, history, political sciences, and much more”, stated Natalia Moussienko. “Today, it is a challenge for Ukrainian scholars who collect diverse empiric data on the Russo-Ukrainian war to analyse them rationally, while emotionally they experience every moment of their country’s difficult wartime”.
Dr Moussienko deplored that Russia deliberately targets cultural heritage sites at the heart of Ukrainian identity and that we continue to record damages to cultural infrastructure in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression. As of 11 May 2023, some 1.464 cultural infrastructure objects – excluding cultural heritage monuments – suffered damage. Almost one third of them have been destroyed.
The lecture concluded by pointing out that the war has entered into all areas of Ukrainian art and impregnated them with new narratives (heroes vs anti-heroes, war memes, murals over the world, cultural heritage is at the heart of national identity); that it is important to analyse the artistic reflections on the war in a time framework and in historical and cultural context; and that artists create an emotional encyclopaedia of the war.
Natalia Moussienko concluded: “Art, born under Russian bombs, is the new cultural heritage of Ukraine”.
Since the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, Europa Nostra has standed in solidarity with the country and has actively supported its endangered cultural heritage and stakeholders through the #World4Heritage network aimed at bringing civil society mobilisation to help Ukraine. These activities are supported by the EU Creative Europe programme through Europa Nostra’s network project European Cultural Heritage Agora (2022-2024).
This support includes the Heritage Solidarity Fellowship for Ukraine which was launched in May 2022 to provide much-needed financial support to heritage professionals in Ukraine who are facing hardships as well as to individuals who have displayed civic activism in protecting Ukraine’s cultural heritage during the war. A second call for applications was launched in April 2023. The amount of the fellowship is €500 per person. To date, 155 Ukrainian heritage defenders have received our solidarity support thanks to this fellowship.
The first tranche of this fellowship scheme was raised by our non-governmental organisations: €50,000 through the crowdfunding campaign jointly initiated by Europa Nostra and the Global Heritage Fund with a matching contribution of €50,000 provided by ALIPH – International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, through the support of the European Union. On 8 March 2023, ALIPH announced its decision to renew its commitment to the Heritage Solidarity Fellowship for Ukraine with an additional amount of €50,000. This project is funded by ALIPH, through the support of the European Union. Additional contributions to the crowdfunding campaign to support Ukrainian heritage defenders are welcome and important, and can easily be made via the Europa Nostra website.
On 24 August 2023 on the Independence Day of Ukraine, a delegation from Europa Nostra will attend the opening of the Vyshvanka Day Square in Chernivtsi, a wonderful, educational, cultural and recreation space created around the World Vyshyvanka Day, an annual holiday celebrated internationally that helps preserve the iconic Ukrainian embroidered shirt (vyshyvanka) as an important element of the heritage of the Ukrainian people. The shirt has become a spiritual armour and a symbol of intemperance for Ukraine. The World Vyshyvanka Day is among the winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2022 and the winner of the Public Choice Award 2022.
See the Power Point presentation