Where is Home: ‘Dear Ukraine’

The ‘Where Is Home’ series connects artists in Ukraine with African artists to encourage collaboration, develop solidarity and the exchange of ideas. The first artist to connect is Igbobinna Eze (he/him) from Nigeria with his piece ‘Dear Ukraine’.

The full scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces sent shockwaves around the world. As with any conflict, people tried to get to safety as best they could.

Tens of thousands of African and Asian nationals, mostly students but also families with young children, were pushed back from evacuation trains and buses. Others spent freezing days and nights at checkpoints near borders protesting to be allowed to cross into other countries only to be threatened with violence by officials.

As Black people and people of colour, it was heart wrenching to see an already terrifying and chaotic situation unfold knowing that they were persecuted based solely on the colour of their skin.

Because media can be manipulated, it’s hard to distinguish between ignorant border authorities and instigated Russian propaganda. Regardless of what we were seeing, we knew that what was happening to the people of Ukraine was wrong and that they needed our support.

We wanted to find a way to build a bridge to show solidarity with Ukraine and motivate the action needed to encourage new dialogue.

Our goal for the ‘Where Is Home’ series is to shift prejudices and show our common humanity. We hope it can create space for the individuals impacted to strike up conversation to try and understand where we’re going, overcome shared traumas and embrace our collective hopes and dreams.

Detail from Dear Ukraine

Language plays a vital role in communication, forming identity and reflecting culture. Letters and postcards are an intentional way of processing our thoughts and emotions. Upon personally sharing them, we hope for reciprocity.

We met Igbobinna Eze, a Nigerian artist whose illustrations read and feel like letters. Influenced by Igbo culture, symbols and designs, we asked him to write a special letter called ‘Dear Ukraine’ to share with Vitaliy Matukhno, his contemporary art collective, Gareleya Neotodryosh, and the people of Ukraine.

Vitaliy’s collective will work on a reply to Igbobinna.

Igbobinna describes his motivation behind the creation of ‘Dear Ukraine’:

Igbobinna Eze by Chidebe Chinedu

“I want people to see the truth. To answer the truth, for themselves.

“I want to bring into people’s consciousness what’s going on in Ukraine. Not just about the people who have been displaced or the citizens. But how humanity has been given little to no attention in this situation. How Black people especially have been treated at the borders, during a time that they must relocate for their safety. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly.

“I want people to know that my people, the Igbo of Nigeria, fought a war from 1967-1970. And today we are still feeling the effects of that war that happened more than five decades ago.

“Most importantly, I want to bring back writing.

Dear Ukraine by Igbobinna Eze

“I would love to see a hundred responses from people who would like to say something in response to my letter, to show more concern for what’s going on – real physical handwritten letters from anyone who feels moved to respond.

“This is why I write. To bring into our consciousness and our remembrance everything that concerns us all as humans. And for us to have our own answers right there in our minds, in our souls and our heart.”

This article was first published in print in Journal 002 and released in December 2022.

The ‘Where Is Home’ series will continue in Journal 003.

Are you an artist from the African continent or diaspora who wants to get involved with the project? Email collaborate@thestudy.group.

Photo: Lolo Janine Udogu

Follow Igbobinna: @igbobinna_nsb

WORDS: Marie-Anne Leuty
ART: Igbobinna Eze

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