NEW YORK, NY.-
Ukraine is under brutal assault. Ukraines people are perishing. Ukraines culture, its theaters, museums and churches are being destroyed. Ukraines soul is fighting for survival. In the face of such inhumanity, we are all Ukrainian. We are all called to Ukraines defense.
Sofika Zielyk, an ethnographer and pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg) artist is also fighting back. Her weapon of choice is the ordinary, humble egg.
Together with the Ukrainian Institute of America
and the World Federation of Ukrainian Womens Organizations (WFUWO), Ms. Zielyk conceived and produced a communal and participatory exhibition of the pysanka. This initiative encourages children and adults of all backgrounds, beliefs and ages to enrich a living installation of pysanky (plural of pysanka) by contributing their own egg, hand decorated using traditional Ukrainian techniques and motifs. This installation is an ongoing, living, and evolving endeavor. As more pysanky continue to arrive in person, and by mail from all over the world the installation will grow in size and and symbolic power.
Ms. Zielyk explains her inspiration for the project by harkening back to an ancient Ukrainian legend of good versus evil:
The inhabitants of the Carpathian Mountains in Western Ukraine believed that the fate of the world depended on the pysanka. Each year, an evil monster, chained to a mountain cliff, sent his henchmen to see how many pysanky (plural for pysanka) were created in the land. If the number was high, the henchmen returned and tightened the monsters chains. If the pysanka creating tradition subsided, the monsters chains were loosened and he was free to wander the earth causing destruction.
True to its symbolic meaning of rebirth, these pysanky will return to their ancestral homeland of Ukraine as it rises from the ashes of war.
Thousands of years ago, the agrarian people living in the area now known as Ukraine, depended on the Sun for survival. It gave them light, warmed them and made their crops grow. Not surprisingly they came to venerate the Sun as one of their most important gods and created rituals to honor this deity. Pagan spring rituals celebrated the return of the Sun after a long dark winter and the humble egg played a central role in this celebration.
Created using the batik wax-resistance technique, the Ukrainian Easter egg or pysanka (from the word pysaty or to write) was believed to possess enormous power. For the ancients, holding a pysanka in ones hand was a way of harnessing the power of the sun. The whole egg represented the rebirth of nature, while the yolk alone was the symbol of the all powerful Sun god. Pysanky (the plural of a pysanka) were revered as talismans; they protected the family against evil, disease and fire. People believed that through patterns on the egg shell they could send messages of tributes and entreaties to the pagan gods.
When Ukraine accepted Christianity in the 10th century AD, many aspects of paganism were incorporated into the new religion. The pysanka transitioned from a spring ritual to a celebration of Easter.