“Art Against War” Exhibition at Kent

An exhibition of art by students and graduates from Ukraine's Kherson State University (KSU)

Exhibition image: 'You wanted my land, now stay inside it forever' by Chiumachenko Viktir iia

The exhibition explores lived experiences of the ongoing war in Ukraine. It is part of an educational and cultural project facilitated by KSU’s Faculty of Culture and Arts, which won a national competition in 2017 for a study on art and anti-war protest.

Kherson State University (KSU), which is in southern Ukraine, was twinned with University of Kent on Tuesday 28 June 2022 as part of a five-year initiative backed by the UK government, Universities UK and Cormack Consultancy Group.

Over 70 UK universities have similar twinning relationships with Ukrainian universities, promoting resource sharing, cultural exchange, support and solidarity with institutions which have been affected by the ongoing conflict.

Since the twinning, Kent has provided laptops to KSU as well as online English classes for students and guest lectures.

'It's dark all around, but we keep the light inside of us" by Hurnyk Viktiriia
‘It’s dark all around, but we keep the light inside of us’ by Hurnyk Viktiriia

KSU is a 105-year-old University in a territory that was occupied by Russian military forces early during the invasion. They have had to close their campus and move to Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in the West of Ukraine, 1,000 kilometres away.

Though Russia withdrew from the city in November 2022, Vice Rector Tsapiv Alla Oleksiivna describes – in an interview with Universities UK – how most of their equipment is destroyed or stolen and the city is still constantly under attack.

'The Blooming of War' by Hurnyk Viktiriia
‘The Blooming of War’ by Hurnyk Viktiriia

The art exhibition was launched at University of Kent on 30 March. To mark the opening, KSU staff presented their book, Chronicles of a Displaced University, which documents their thoughts and memories of their lives relocated in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Launch of Exhibition Art Against War by Kherson State University Students            Launch of 'Art Against War' exhibition

Our very own Global Officer Baba Ige, currently studying Law at Kent, said of the exhibition:

“The art exhibition presented by the Ukraine students was a reminder of the devastating effects of war. The pieces on display were a mix of paintings  and photographs that depicted the horrors of war and its impact on the lives of people.

I was struck by the raw emotions that the artists had managed to capture through their art. Each piece conveyed a powerful message about the pain, suffering, and loss that people experience during times of conflict.

One of the pieces that stood out to me was a painting of a young girl with a flower crown of blood. The artist had used bold strokes of color to convey the intensity of the girl’s emotions, and it was impossible not to feel moved by the painting.

Poppy by Anonymous
‘Poppy’ by Anonymous

Overall, the exhibition was a sobering reminder of the harsh realities of war. It made me realize that even though I may be far removed from the conflicts that are raging in different parts of the world, the impact of war is felt by people everywhere.

The art pieces also highlighted the resilience of the human spirit, and the importance of hope and solidarity in times of crisis.”

The exhibition will be displayed in the University of Kent’s Templeman Library Cafe Space until 13 April.