13 August 2009

Kseniya Simonova - Ukrainian sand artist

The winner of Ukraine's Got Talent "recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the second world war. She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman's face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes - with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene 'you are always near'."

Consider also that she performs her art within the time constraints of a mix of prerecorded music. Very impressive.

Additional performances here and here, and others searchable on YouTube.


  1. Wow. I'm most impressed with how War for her is such a different experience than what Americans typically understand.

    The skill is amazing, but that she caused me to swell up a few times with only a passing understanding of Ukrainian history says a lot. About whom, I'm not sure. :)

  2. I am Russian, seeing something like this reminds me and the world of how talented our people are and how much empathy we carry for each other.

    Growing up in Russia, we had numerous holidays dedicated to remembering the fallen. There isn't a single family that hasn't lost someone to war. That makes our experience much different from American understanding of war.

  3. Dan, I never really thought about that. Over here (Netherlands), WWII is the only one people remember, and it was very different for the Dutch as well, as the country was occupied but never destroyed. The Polish, (Bela)russians and Ukrainians fell victim to scorched earth policies of Germans as well as Russians.

    I wonder what Americans typically understand. War is always far from home for you, I guess.

  4. Well, since the Civil War, anyway.

    That's why 9/11 was so horrendously traumatic for us, and why the reaction was one of overwhelming anger--How DARE they come do this to us on our soil??

    So what did we do? We went and made war on the soil of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, in order to, in the words of our then-president, "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."

    What a remarkable artist. Is sand painting a Ukrainian traditional art form, or did she invent it? I've never seen anything even remotely like it.

    I'd love to see her do one relating to 9/11.

  5. Wonderful display of talent, artistry and storytelling.

  6. Am Australian and it made me cry.

  7. Wonderful talent and a great sensitivity displayed through her art. It's one thing to create sand sculptures/stories but to do it live and dynamically...well, that's amazing.

    On Americans and war, please don't forget that we have our losses, too. We have fought for others' freedom (and, yes, for other less altruistic things) many times and we've lost lives as well. There are huge cemeteries in foreign lands where our fallen are buried.

    Happily, we've not had to suffer civilian losses in our homeland like so many others both to our east and west but we watch the sad and often terrible things that happen to others and feel helpless, as individuals (the mass murders in Africa as a current example).

    One doesn't have to necessarily experience a hardship to feel great empathy for those who are suffering. When my wife had our first baby and she was in agony and I came very close to losing her, I felt horrific pain at her pain and the potential loss. Only when our firstborn died at age eighteen did I experience that again. But in neither case was I undergoing the source of the pain.

    Similarly, I see what's happening around the world to good, wonderful people and I ache for them. This doesn't in any way diminish the pain others have suffered nor is there any way to compare people's pain. Agony is very personalized. But through our own suffering, perhaps we can learn to care more for the suffering of others. And from caring comes action, even if only on an individual scale.

    Anyone with any compassion will be moved by Kseniya's art.

  8. Kseniya's latest work is worth seeing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxoL3-Mo08s

    You need to read the comments to understand the text

  9. A beautiful and moving tribute. Ukraine suffered the heaviest losses of any country during WWII, with deaths of about 25% of the population, and countless cities and villages destroyed. Almost every survivor had the experience of losing one or more family members in the senseless war. Hence the painful scars on the memory of the survivors and their descendants.


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