Azerbaijan International

Autumn 1999 (7.3)
Page 88

Azerbaijan Today
Poster Contest Reflects Soul of a Nation

In 1994 Unocal sponsored its first poster competition around the theme, "Azerbaijan Today." The event was so successful that it has become an annual tradition marking Azerbaijan's Independence Day-May 28. The graphics depicted in these posters over the past six years have mirrored the steady evolution of Azerbaijan as a former Soviet republic to a democratic and independent nation.

 Posters in Azerbaijan    

Left: "To Be or Not to Be," dedicated to the struggles to create the CIS.

Center: "The clock's hands cut through the darkness; there is light and hope coming from far away."

Right: "Save Yourself from AIDS"

The idea for the contest came from Shaig Safarov in Baku who worked for Unocal at the time. He suggested the concept to then General Manager Ken Bradley in 1994. Poster art had been a staple of the Soviet system for disseminating ideological messages, so the artists of Azerbaijan were eager to create posters with messages of their own. Unocal enlisted the support of the Baku Art Center to organize the annual event.

The first posters spoke of war, of suffering, of loss of direction and of facing the unknown. One poster depicted a broken umbrella covering what used to be the Soviet Union. Another showed Azerbaijan as a delicate flower trying to find its way out of the rubble of the past only to be caught as a vulnerable target in the sight of a rifle.

Left: "To the New Century"

Gradually the posters reflected more messages of hope, like the one called "Genie (Jinni) in a Bottle" representing layers of oil trapped beneath the Caspian to be released under the "Contract of the Century" which the 11 consortia members of Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) had signed in 1994.

In some posters, the memories of suffering showed through, but with a perspective developed over time. There was the release of feelings about the past: that the USSR had been a dinosaur, that socialism had sapped the life-blood of the people, that Azerbaijanis sometimes have had to choose between bread and democracy.

"Azerbaijan to the 21st Century"

In 1997, there were celebrations of life. Vagif Mustafazade's wonderful mugham-jazz, which evokes all the beauty of the synthesis of Eastern music with the influences of the West was expressed in a festival of lights against a dark background. And the bright prospects of the future began to show through: the concept of privatization, the options for the future between three doors.

The next year, 1998, anticipated the Presidential election and the hope that leaders would continue the economic progress they had begun. And in the sixth year, 1999, the end of the century was depicted: the bold strokes of many flags doing business in Azerbaijan, the anniversary of the age-old book of legends, Dada Gorgud, and the future century depicted as a new baby in a new world.

"Victory of the Century" - international investment

The posters showed the evolution of hope with a maturity born of reality: not every oil well that is drilled will fulfill its promises, not every new venture will be successful. But collectively, the economy will grow, and businesses will blossom.

The posters demonstrate the Azerbaijani people's hope and optimism that this growth and purpose will persist. Unocal plans to continue this annual tradition to support artists and provide them with a media that becomes a historic document reflecting public sentiment in contemporary Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan International (7.3) Autumn 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.

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