2018 marked 85 years since the Holodomor (death by hunger) – a famine that Stalin, as leader of the USSR, imposed on the Ukrainian people in 1932–33, killing many millions.
In commemoration of this anniversary, the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations launched a photographic exhibition honouring Australian-Ukrainian Holodomor survivors still alive to tell their story. Large scale black and white portraits revealed faces of people who endured difficult times but who demonstrated resilience. The show also paid respect to those who were no longer with us, and provided historical context through various displays of posters and artefacts.
The exhibition was officially opened by Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Health, Dr. Ulana Suprun, at the launch event on 8 November.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Dr. Mykola Kulinich, was also part of the launch, recalling the suffering experienced by his grandparents during this time.
The exhibition was held over 10 days at SPACE Gallery in Collins Street, Melbourne, which provided an amazing environment for showcasing this important display. It was part of international activities held to mark the 85th anniversary of Holodomor.
In August 2019, The black and white portraits travelled to Kyiv for an exhibition, known as “Voices Across the Ocean”, at the Holodomor Museum, and opened by the Yevhen Nyshchuk, Minister of Culture, Later it was also shown at the Dmytro Yavornytsky National Historical Museum of Dnipro, in the region from which many of the Holodomor victims and survivors came.
In 2020, part of the exhibition was shown in Adelaide, Australia.
Voices From Across The Ocean focused upon a collection of large-scale, black-and-white photo-portraits of living survivors, taken between 2017-18. Holodomor 85 offered a window of opportunity to photograph those still living and able to speak of their experiences, through their voices, their words and their faces. The idea of photographing the visage in an honest but artistic way appealed to us because the face is a universal symbol of humanity. Taking away colour, all become equal, enabling viewers to concentrate on the texture and tones of the head and face. Enlarging the scale literally makes them larger than life, but still intimate.
The portraits celebrate the resilience of our survivors: we honour them.
This exhibition was a project jointly curated by the Holodomor victim’s Memorial, Kyiv, and the curatorial team of The Holodomor Project, Australian Federation of Australian Organisations (AUFO)