Winter 2004 (12.4)
Azerbaijani Artist Wins Norwegian Cultural Grant
In October 2004, the
Norwegian Association of Arts and Crafts (NAAC) announced the
winners of their "Land i sør" or "Arts
and Crafts Project" grant. Inna Kostina of Azerbaijan, known
for her brilliant works of art using cold and warm batik on silk,
was among the six international recipients to receive this prestigious
award. It was the first time the Norwegians had ever offered
The NAAC is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The aim of this grant is to build relations between Norway and
developing countries, especially in artist communities.
Proposals were sent in from Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Zambia,
East Timor, Swaziland, Bangladesh, and a Palestinian refugee
community in Lebanon. A total of 350,000 Norwegian kroners (approximately
USD $57,000) was alloted for the six projects that were awarded.
Left: Artist Inna Kostina with exhibition
of her silk batics. Inna has just been awarded a major cultural
grant from the Norwegian government that will facilitate exchange
between artists in Azerbaijan and Norway.
NAAC discovered the work of Azerbaijan artists from the Web site
of AZgallery.org, a project sponsored
by Azerbaijan International Magazine, which features more than
3,000 works of art by more than 160 Azerbaijani artists. They
then contacted AZgallery, which in turn contacted textile artists
in Baku to encourage them to apply for the grant.
Inna was thrilled with the news of winning the grant. She pointed
out that these days there is so much tension in the world attributed
to religion - especially between Islam and Christianity. "Today,
it is more important than ever for professionals and artists
to reach out to one another and understand the many shared human
qualities that are sacred in life. We must focus on our similarities
rather than the alleged differences imposed by organized religion.
As artists, who are used to thinking conceptually and symbolically,
it is our responsibility to convey the universality of life to
others and we must be involved in preserving peace and the sacredness
The grant will enable Inna to exhibit her latest collection,
"Silk and Gold" in Norway. The exhibition which consists
of more than 50 works, mostly of batik, is also built on the
synthesis of two world views - East and West. She chose this
theme because Azerbaijan is located in the heart of the ancient
Silk Road lying between Italy and China.
The image of the Simurg, a mythical bird-woman, runs throughout
her work. This creature exists in both Eastern and Slavic mythology.
It is also known as Siren in Greek and Sirin in Slavic mythology.
As a child, Inna's grandmother used to tell her legends about
Simurg-women with wings. Her grandmother used to have needleworks
of these bird-women.
But for Inna the Simurg symbolizes the soul's capability for
revival, resurrection, and fertility. She believes that people
are lacking these qualities nowadays - sincerity, spirituality
and warmth. "When I create these mythical bird-women creatures,"
says Inna, "I want people to gain more warmth and spirituality
through my work."
or "bird women" are featured in many of Inna's new
batics. For her the symbol represents revival, resurrection,
and fertility. Some of them are in triptych format, which makes
it possible to position these works in galleries as three-sided
pyramids and lit up from inside.
"Each Simurg has its own character and each work has been
influenced by specific person. I'm so lucky that I've had the
chance to meet good, bright people. Relations with these people
manifest themselves in my works."
"First, when I started to paint this bird, I thought of
it as an interesting decorative task. Later, when I faced tragedy
in my own life, this image became a symbol of rebirth for me.
It supported me personally and gave me faith and strength to
live on. Despite the death of dear ones near us, we need to believe
in our own renewable strength to move on. Everything is redeemable.
God really does send good people into our lives."
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made the decision
to continue these grants for 2005. Grant applications are due
in April and October 2005. For more details, visit: www.kunsthandverk.no or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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