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SUN, SUN, ILLUMINATE THE SHADOWS!

"Sun, Sun, Illuminate the Shadows!" — With these words from a poem by Ukrainian poet Lina Kostenko, an exhibition of Ukrainian female artists was named, which was opened by the Shcherbenko Art Centre in collaboration with the JetSetter portal on March 8, 2023, in Lisbon.

Maria Kulikovska watercolors from the series Swimming in Freedom and plates with watercolors prints was a part of the exhibition.

Curator: Maryna Shcherbeko
The bloody war has been ongoing for over a year, during which the Ukrainian people have demonstrated their best and strongest qualities of resilience and bravery. Ukrainian women, in particular, exhibit exceptional heroism and courage. They defend the country on the battlefield, rescue their children and loved ones from Russian rockets by evacuating and leaving the occupied territories, organize volunteer movements and organizations, and provide medical assistance, among other things. However, we must now address the problems that arise from the war because historical experience warns us of the risks of regression and violations of women's rights during and after the war. "I see the need to talk about different women's experiences, to make women visible because during the war, stereotypical views of masculinity and femininity are reinforced. Men are expected to be strong, brave, those who fight and protect, while women are supposed to be vulnerable and weak, staying at home with children and in need of protection. The focus in society shifts towards the heroization of men, creating expectations of masculine behavior regardless of circumstances. However, the reality is that during this most difficult period for our country, women are a significant part of the armed resistance. And in the cultural environment, it is women who have taken on the entire burden of work both in Ukraine and beyond," said project curator Maryna Shcherbenko.

The exhibition "Sun, Sun, Illuminate the Shadows!" brought together female artists who share the common experience of surviving war. They all have their unique stories: photographer Zhenya Laptii was in the Kharkiv region during the Russian invasion, which was later occupied. To return to Ukraine, she had to make a circle through Russia, Latvia, Germany, Austria, and Poland. Maryna Talutto, Alyona Naumenko, Maria Proshkovska, and Maria Kulikovska are women with small children who, during the first weeks of the war, hid in bomb shelters with the sole thought of saving their own and their child's life until they decided to leave Ukraine. They went through the extremely difficult experience of evacuation, leaving the country, getting temporary protection, and adapting to new living conditions in foreign countries. Despite all the difficulties, deprivations, fears, and stresses, they continue to work, create new works, projects, maintain dialogue with international audiences, and draw attention to the war. The duo of graphic artists etchingroom1, Anna Khodkova and Kristina Yarosh, had to work separately during the first months of the war. Anna stayed in Kyiv and combined volunteer activities with artistic practice, while Kristina moved to Lviv, where she also worked and volunteered. Artist Vlada Ralko first moved to Lviv, then participated in international residencies for a year, during which she highlighted the theme of war, drawing attention to the atrocities of Russian troops. Vlada captures the flow of the war in the series "Lviv Diary," the pages of which impress with their brutal truth. Alevtina Kakhidze remains in the village of Muzhychi (Kyiv region) and continues to work and document the course of the war. She shares her experience, works, and projects with the Western world, visiting residencies, lectures, and participating in exhibition projects. Film director and artist Zoia Laktionova in her works share the experience of being in a state of two realities: living in Ukraine during the war and working abroad in peace and tranquility. Mariia Stoianova remains in Ukraine and explores the roots of the Ukrainian resistance today, turning to the family archives of Ukrainian families.

This year of war has changed all of us. We have become stronger, more united, and resilient. We have demonstrated our tolerance and sensitivity towards each other. Furthermore, we have more clearly defined our most important life values. Our land unites us, the longing for home, and the desire to protect and liberate our country from invaders. "I say farewell to my native land in silence, in pious silence... Sun, sun, illuminate the shadows! Don't set; wait a minute! I once more in your shining look around at my fatherland." - Lina Kostenko.