“It is not a war between Ukraine and Russia, but it concerns the whole world, it is the war between democracy and imperialism,” said Ukrainian designer Victoria Yakusha, 39, contacted by AFP by telephone.
His exhibition “Chornozem” (“black earth” in Ukrainian), presented in the premises of the cultural association T12 lab, will have been one of the highlights of the “Fuorisalone” (the Outside Salon), which takes place parallel to the Salon furniture.
Black, a reflection of the link with the Ukrainian land, its dark soil, is omnipresent there: “We draw our strength from the land of our ancestors. We cannot speak through another color now”, explains Victoria Yakusha from Brussels, where she has lived for two years.
Through her contemporary furniture in an original and minimalist style, this great figure of Ukrainian design tells the story of the ancestral traditions and artisanal techniques of her country from which she draws her inspiration.
– Ancient symbol –
An ancient symbol dating back to the time of the Trypilians, ancestors of the Ukrainians, woven into the heart of a carpet, a Kumanec clay vase celebrating the know-how of ancient pottery, lamps in the form of sunflowers… everything refers to fertile land.
After the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, “the shock was too great, I could no longer create. All my thoughts were with my family in the Donbass, my team there and the craftsmen who had to be ensured safety,” she said.
But now, she has resumed her “mission”, which is to “show the world the creativity and beauty of Ukrainian culture and thus affirm the identity” of her native land in the face of Russia.
His brand, Faina, was born with the pro-European revolution in 2014 which had the Maidan square in kyiv as its epicenter and ended in the fall of a pro-Russian president: “we want to defend our land, our freedom” through design, she summarizes.
Part of the proceeds from Faina, whose creations are marketed in 42 countries, including the United States, France and the United Kingdom, is donated to museums and other cultural institutions in Ukraine to finance the protection of exhibits.
– Geometric shapes –
Another young designer, Kateryna Sokolova, 38, accompanied by her eleven-month-old baby and her parents, traveled to Milan from Lviv in western Ukraine to exhibit her Noom brand at Superstudio Più.
His new collection was stopped short by the war. When the missiles started falling on the capital kyiv, “we slept for a week in the underground parking lot of our building”, before fleeing by car to Lviv, near the Polish border, she told the AFP.
In Lviv, where its suppliers have also taken refuge, “the Russian attacks mainly target military installations, but there is no longer a safe place in Ukraine”.
After an enforced two-month break, Kateryna Sokolova and her partner Arkady Vartanov returned to work, to prevent “Ukrainian design from being wiped off the world map”.
Inspired by the Ukrainian painter Kazimir Malevich, draftsman and abstract artist of the XXth century, the refined work of Kateryna Sokolova reproduces its geometric and unicolored forms.
Centerpiece of the exhibition, a foam-padded sofa covered with a curly wool fabric, created on the occasion of the centenary of the Bauhaus, an artistic movement founded in 1919 in Germany by Walter Gropius.
Sculpted by Ukrainian artisans, steel coffee tables feature hand-drawn patterns reminiscent of ripples in water.
For Kateryna Sokolova, “this war is like the return of Stalin. We want to avoid at all costs going back under the thumb of the Soviet Union and safeguard Ukrainian culture”.