What is The Ark Ukraine?

 Where is The Ark Ukraine sailing to?

We have built The Ark Ukraine. A crew of people - creators with a global mindset and a taste for the local - have loaded it with all the cultural treasures that Ukrainians have created over the millennia of their existence. That is our "selected grain". 

We want Ukrainians to rediscover their own country. It is like in Buddhist story – just t peep into an old chest they have been sitting on all that time, – to look inside themselves, and fall in love with their country. And we strive to tell the world our exclusive stories about Ukraine.

The Ark Ukraine was born out of fear - fear that we are losing our unique microcosm. We still don't know our true selves, and that's why we don't love ourselves (because how can one love what one doesn't know?!)... We still hang on a simple question "who are we?". And this is very dangerous. Because if you don't know who you are, then you don't understand who your friend is and who your enemy, and you can't build up your own coordinate system. Identity is fundamental. That's why our enemies have always destroyed our "identification marks" – language and culture. 

We can fail in wars and lose territories. We may be destroyed in millions, but we will certainly revive if we preserve our cultural identity. Because from it, like from stem cells, we can restore all lost and damaged files.

For me, the story of Ukrainian carol Shchedryk is very symbolic in this context. It is the most popular Christmas tune in the world Carol of the Bells - the whole planet sings it, but no one knows that this is a Ukrainian carol. That is a point - to be so beautiful as to become the Christmas anthem of the planet, but to remain unnoticed,  and ashamed of one selves.

The Ark Ukraine was born out of great love. And there is plenty of heavenly beauty in here. Unknown beauty, hidden in chests and museum vaults. The beauty that was shot in Sandarmokh (a place in Russia where top Ukrainian creative elite was killed), burned like Baturyn (one of Cossacks' capitals wiped off the face of the earth by Pere the Great) or the scores of Vasyl Barvinsky (a famous Ukrainian composer who was forced to burn down his notes).

українські артбуки видавництва Ковчег "Україна"

The Ark Ukraine is a national psychotherapy. We need to work through our collective trauma and release our pain - speak it out, scream it out. Our spine was broken, our memory has been taken away, and the worst thing is that we were even forbidden to reflect on what happened to us and to mourn our dead. 

The Ark Ukraine is an instinct of self-preservation. We are being attacked, but still forbidden to take resuscitation measures. Our attempts to save our own identity are viewed as nazism, intolerance to Russia, radicalism (yes, but after all, resuscitation is always radical and sometimes very brutal, but its goal is to save lives). 

We have lost our memory. Like the patients with Alzheimer's not knowing who they are and where their home is, we are now standing confused in the middle of Europe, helpless descendants of great hetmans, living in the largest European country with more than a thousand years of history. That is why we have to rediscover Ukraine and unite around Ukrainian culture.

українські дукачі

Ukrainians are a polyphonic nation. 

We are incredibly rich within Ukrainianness itself: Hutsuls (highlanders) and Polishchuks (borderline with Belarus), Lemkos (Ukrainian ethnic territories which are now in Poland) and Slobozhans (Eastern Ukraine), Galicians (Western Ukraine) and Poltavians (the heart of Ukraine) - each with their own dialects, recipes, traditions, and mentality. That is why The Ark "Ukraine" comprises Hutsul Koliada, Poltava polyphony, as well as Pokuttya triytsia candelabras, Podillia carpets and Krolevets ritual cloths.

We strive to preserve the polyphonic sounds of this land, not to lose the unique cultural codes, not to dissolve in the "globalization flood," and to pass them on to create a new modern Ukrainian culture that will grow from its own roots. For us, Tradition is not "the worship of ashes, but the transmission of fire" to the next generations.

Ukrainians are a paradoxical nation.

The creators of two empires wandering on the outskirts of Europe, living on the most fertile "black soil" on the planet, but for some reason begging for money all over the world. We have a colossal cultural heritage, but don't want to know anything about it. We have to rediscover ourselves. But first, we have to go through the deconstruction of the old idea of ourselves as a territory without identifying marks. After all, we are an ancient nation with a great culture and history. And it is the sense of belonging to our own culture and history that can unite Ukrainians. That is the best cure for separatism and inferiority complex. 

Great Ukrainian culture in the broadest sense of the word should become not just our national idea, but a national idea-fix. Ukrainian culture growing out of its own roots, out of its cultural genome.

українські писанки

Сulture is politics. It is as much a matter of national security as army or  NATO. If a country does not have powerful cultural brands behind it, it becomes faceless, invisible, and therefore it is difficult to perceive it as a serious player in the political arena. Our neighbor to the north is good at this and it is so difficult to wage war on Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, or the great Russian ballet.

Culture is a soft power that unites people gently, without coercion. And we must unite around the Ukrainian cultural core. After all, countries with a strong identity are the most successful (not tested on anilals, only on humans). If people are united around the same system of values and cultural codes, they become monolithic concrete. Such countries have a higher quality of public administration, a stronger economy, and a high level of trust in society. It is economically profitable to be yourself. That is why it is very important what language we speak, what holidays we celebrate together, what version of history our children study in schools, and what we tell the world about ourselves.

скарби нації: гуцульська ікона на склі

Ukrainian culture is something that grows from the root, from this land. It is not a preserved museum exhibit, but a living cultural vibration. It pulsates in folk songs, in poems of Taras Shevchenko (the iconic national poet of Ukraine) and Serhiy Zhadan (the most popular modern poet), in texts by Vasyl Stefanyk (a acknowledged writer of impressionistic short stories) and Taras Prokhasko (the most famous modern novelist). In the music of Mykola Lysenko (the father of Ukrainian classical music) and DakhaBrakha (a popular nowadays band). This is the same vibration. And we want to preserve it...So when

  • our prominent painters Olexander Murashko and Oleksa Novakivsky will be as famous as Van Gogh or Klimt, our composers Lyatoshynsky and Silvestrov - as Shostakovich or Wagner;
  • our checked poltava plakhta (woven wrap-skirt) will be as recognizable in the world as a Scottish kilt, and the Krolevets ritual cloth, Kosiv ceramics, and Borshchiv shirt will be as recognizable as a Japanese kimono or Indian sari;
  • polonynske maslo (butter from highland meadows of Carpathian mountains and vurda (goat cheese)will catch up with Parmesan and mascarpone in popularity;
  • when Holodomor will be marked with the same "red card" to all totalitarian regimes as Holocaust;
  • the Ukrainian language will fully function at all levels - from thieves' argo to the language of big science and big business;
  • when Ukrainians go on space voyages and build their own "silicone valleys," but will also protect the virginity of their sacred places (because, as our famous writer Taras Prokhasko wrote, "we will not survive without at least something remaining untouched, reserved... at least a few images, a few landscapes, a couple of clean lines of bare terrain - Svydovets, Borzhava, Chornohora", and there we will continue to embroider our sacred cloths, carol from house to house, bake Easter cakes and write Easter eggs pysanka...
Ярина Винницька

Ярина Винницька

Only then will we be able to say that the mission of The Ark Ukraine has been fulfilled," – believes Yaryna Vynnytska, co-founder of the cultural platform The Ark Ukraine.

 "Do we need patriotism in the age of iphones and low-cost airlines? I think about this every time I buy a Wizzair ticket, book an apartment on Booking, call an Uber, and in a few hours pay for my coffee with Apple pay in Rome – how boring are all borders, visas, passports, how ridiculous are wars over territories or annexations when the whole world is already mine? We no longer need external borders. But we do need internal borders. Rather than borders, we need some kind of hypersensitive membranes that would let in everything new and useful, but strictly protect the unique internal homeostasis.

For centuries we have been convinced that to love oneself is to be a bourgeois nationalist. Or a fascist or a limited peasant who missed a plane to Mars. But loving oneself is the most primary and natural form of love, from which everything begins and without which nothing happens. For a multicultural world to remain multicultural, everyone needs to cherish their own culture. That is why it is vital that somewhere on this planet poets continue to compose their poems in Ukrainian, that new banduras continue to be strung with Lviv Trembita factory, and that eggs are blown to make another Kosmach (or maybe cosmic?) pysanka. Because without all this, the unique internal homeostasis of the planet Earth will be disrupted.

I'm doing this project because we need to break the cultural umbilical cord with Russia - through this toxic connection we receive not oxygen and nutrients, but poison and disbelief in our own abilities. But the most important thing for us is not so much to break with Russia as with Malorussia (small Russia as Russians called Ukraine) – with this luscious feeling of secondary, second-rate culture. We need to learn to love ourselves and our culture."

Yaryna Vynnytska, co-founder of cultural platform The Ark Ukraine

Author: Ярина Винницька

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