Azerbaijan International

Winter 2004 (12.4)
Pages 28-29

Inna Kostina

Azerbaijani Artist Wins Norwegian Cultural Grant

Inna Kostina
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 such grants.

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.

Inna Kostina
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.

The NAAC discovered the work of Azerbaijan artists from the Web site of, 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 of life."

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."

 Inna Kostina

 Inna Kostina

 Inna Kostina

Above: "Simurgs" 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: or contact:

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