NCCAL’s Secretary General Ali Al-Yoha and the Ukrainian artists are seen during the event.
NCCAL’s Secretary General Ali Al-Yoha and the Ukrainian artists are seen during the event.

KUWAIT: Gaydamaka Anatoly Vasilievich is a Ukrainian artist who is currently displaying his works at a Ukrainian art exhibition at the Art Hall in Dahiyat Abdullah Al-Salem. The exhibition is a part of the Ukrainian Cultural Days event that will run until Sept 17.

Anatoly was born on July 9, 1939 in the village of Voloskovtsy in the Chernihiv region, and resides in Kiev. After graduating from the Moscow higher art industrial school in 1967, he worked in the field of monumental art and won the title of the people’s artist of Ukraine in 1998, which is considered to be one of the top honors in Ukraine. Anatoly is the winner of the National Award of Ukraine in 1985 and got the worthiness title in the arts field. Currently, he is the head artist of the monuments complex “The National Museum for the History of Ukraine” and a member of the Arts Academy and National Artists Society in Ukraine. He is also a member of the Creative Union “Vision”.

Anatoly is the holder of positions in design and internal decor of the historical and cultural government protectorate on Khortytsya Island (1977-1988) and Ostrovsky Museum, Kotosopensky Museum in Tsheher City (1982-1983), Taras Shevchenko in Kiev (1984-1987), Literature Museum in Odessa (1984 -1985), Ukraine House (1980-1982), Ukraine Bank in Kiev (1994), the Holy Trinity Church in Macedonia (1998-1999), the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum (1994-1996) and the creator of the major famine victims memorial of 1932-1933 (2008).

He founded a drawing arts periodical under the title “Crucifiction” (1988 – 1990) and contributed to the implementation of “Accidents on Water Museum” project. He has participated in many exhibitions in Ukraine and abroad such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Besides his national projects, Anatoly served as advisor to the Ukraine president (2005 – 2006). Anatoly is considered to be a heroic artist that believed and fought for the independence of Ukraine and didn’t get scared because as he said it, “I never get scared to go to jail or anything because I was simply saying the truth.”

Anatoly spoke to Kuwait Times about his life and work. Some excerpts from the interview.

Kuwait Times: What jobs have you done other than being an artist? Why art?
Anatoly: I fell in love with art when I was a child – it was a call for me. Art is the purpose of my life and I’m totally occupied with it. I never thought about any other profession, and will never do. I actually feel lucky to work in this field, and if I am given a second life and born again, I will not choose any other profession other than being an artist.

KT: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anatoly: I get my inspiration from environment and life. I’m an observer. I observe various events and you can see this through my work.

KT: What’s your favourite artwork?
Anatoly: I have many favourite artworks, but some of them were left in the occupied Crimean peninsula.

KT: Tell us more about your art in general?
Anatoly: I’m a painter but painting is not the main direction for me; I’m more of an architect. I build monuments and memorial complexes. I was behind the idea of building the Memorial in Commemoration of Famines’ Victims in Ukraine, the so-called Holodomor that took place in 1932-1933. Ditto for the memorial complex devoted to the victims of causalities on water called “Accidents on Water Museum”. This memorial complex is not only for Ukraine, but is universal. I use the most important historical dates and incidents that occurred related to Ukraine or worldwide and build big monuments and huge memorial complexes in order to express my art.

KT: What is the most memorable work that affected you?
Anatoly: I would say the Accidents on Water Museum project, because of the multiple incidents that lead to the sinking of ships at sea, along with the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum, which is dedicated to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and its consequences. I believe that the nuclear issue is very important to discuss and talk about because it is the biggest catastrophe that affects the world. I was lucky enough to be able to showcase my work in Europe regarding this subject, in Italy and Germany.
My work also includes some Japanese artworks that talk about the catastrophe of the nuclear accident that occurred in Japan four years ago. I built a monument dedicated to the catastrophe – when they saw it on the Internet, they were very surprised to know that it was built in Ukraine and that I was the one who built it, especially since it was built only one week after the catastrophe. Since then, very strong relations have been formed between the Ukrainian and the Japanese cultural committees.

KT: What have you liked the most in Kuwait?
Anatoly: I really liked the ship that is called the ‘boom’, which is a symbol of Kuwait, and I like how they preserve this symbol through their emblem. I have only been in Kuwait for two days and intend to explore it as much as possible in the coming days, but I am really impressed with its architecture so far. And the first idea that crossed my mind is building a big golden ship and putting it in the middle of the Arabian Gulf to be a symbol of Kuwait. I will think of this project deeply when I return to Ukraine and study its realistic possibilities in order to achieve it.

KT: What is your dream project?
Anatoly: I intend to build a big mosque in Kiev. There is a mosque presently, but I have a dream to build a big new one. Also, I have a dream to build a “garden of civilization”, because of Ukraine’s long history and its strategic location that links Asia, Europe and Arab and Islamic countries through Turkey or the Ottoman Empire. Each of these countries had a relation with Ukraine politically, commercially or geographically. I want to build a street that looks like a garden that combines all the civilizations that had an influence on Ukraine’s history. The purpose of the garden will be educational for children and people of all ages.

KT: How did you come to Kuwait?
Anatoly: I want to thank the NCCAL (National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters), which approved the Ukraine embassy’s proposal to organize a Ukrainian exhibition of fine arts in Kuwait. This is not the only activity in Kuwait in cooperation with the NCCAL and KNCC. The Ukrainian chorus performed during the Summer Cultural Festival, and Ukrainian movies were also shown. The activities conclude with the Ukrainian exhibition of fine arts today. This exhibition includes four artists who have different styles. My work has the theme of the Chernobyl disaster. This is an important topic, because it is a humanitarian disaster with effects that still last today. Its impact goes beyond infrastructure and the daily lives of Ukrainians, but also affects the artistic scene. Movies, galleries and books are being made to discuss the disaster. The Chernobyl disaster is a message to humanity with regards to the use of nuclear energy even if it is for peaceful means, and thus should be handled with extra caution.

This is a very important topic for us, because Ukraine 20 years ago was one of the strongest nuclear power in the world, but has voluntarily disposed off its nuclear arsenal following the disaster, because we became convinced that the world must live in peace without nuclear weapons. Therefore, Chernobyl is not only a human disaster in Ukraine, but a symbol in the whole world to be remembered.

By Sahar Moussa