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Ukrainian treasures go on show in Melbourne

8 March 20240 comments

A stunning and poignant exhibition of Ukrainian art and craft opens in Melbourne this month showcasing thousands of years of the culture and traditions of the war-ravaged nation.

The exhibition, titled ‘Treasures’, includes paintings, ceramics, sculpture, embroidery, woodwork and decorated eggs.

Highlights among the pieces on show are the yellow, green and brown ‘Kosiv’ ceramics, which come from the Carpathian Mountains and have UNESCO heritage status.

There are also ‘Pysanky’ decorated Easter eggs on which are motifs painted with beeswax and natural dye.

There are also examples of the fascinating ‘Bandura’ sixty-string musical instruments.

The pieces come from the collection of the Ukrainian Museum of Australia, in North Melbourne, founded by Father Zenon Chorkayj in 1976.

The museum is behind the St Peter and St Paul Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, built in 1963. 

Ukrainian Museum of Australia Director Maru Jarockyj said the exhibition was staged by a group of volunteers and was made up mostly of pieces donated by members of the local Ukrainian community.

“We also have some pieces from Ukraine. In 1991, after Ukrainian independence, father Zenon went to Ukraine and purchased pieces for the collection from people who were happy to sell them,” Maru said.

“From there the collection has grown and we now also have 20,000 books and a collection of important religious icons.

“All of this is fantastic but it means we are desperately looking for a new building to house and display our collection.”

Maru said the exhibition was also inspiring children in the Ukrainian community.

“We are seeing kids come along and see the pieces and they are being inspired to take up art and cultural practice. So it’s awakening talent.”

Maru said the exhibition was important as a cultural event but also as way of signalling Ukraine’s resilience and steadfastness in the face of Russia’s illegal invasion of her homeland and the resulting ware that recently entered its third year.

“The exhibition is significant for us because it will hopefully open people’s eyes that because of Russia’s invasion, there are artworks like these being bombed, ruined and stolen in Ukraine,” Maru said.

“It’s a reminder that apart from a human genocide, Ukraine is witnessing a cultural genocide,” she said.

“We are fortunate in Australia that we can preserve some of our cultural heritage and that people can came see the art and get sense of Ukraine’s artistic DNA.

“We want to show the variety of Ukrainian arts and crafts and the unique style that has evolved over thousands of years.

“Ukraine had a sophisticated culture and traditions thousands of years before Moscow existed. Now one man is saying ‘these things are meaningless and Ukrainian culture doesn’t exist and we must get rid of it’. We are just asking why?

“We are also sending message to the people of Ukraine that ‘you are not alone’.

“When the war ends we will again set up artistic exchanges with Ukraine.

“In Australia, with the freedoms we enjoy, it gives us the ability to do this here unencumbered; and that’s priceless and goes to the heart of multiculturalism,” Maru said.

Treasures’ exhibition

March 2024 to March 2025

Every Sunday from 10am to 1pm (free)

35 Canning Street, North Melbourne, 3051