The construction of a cultural identity can be an extremely long and bumpy journey. The journey for constructing racial or national identity is a process which is even more unexpected and certainly unconscious. The case in point is that of Ukrainian identity.
Situated at the crossroads between East and West, the land of the present-day Ukraine had been occupied by different empires, people groups or tribes. They left their marks on the land and its culture through the richness of art and architecture. The Ukrainians forged their own identity in the last 30 years since becoming independent from the Soviet Union, resulting in religious re-awakening and cultural alignments. One of the most powerful symbols is the reconstruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which looks towards the Byzantium connections rather than the Russian tradition. This is expressed through church architecture and the murals and icons housed in the churches from the 11th– 12th centuries. Such iconic programming can be traced to Byzantium liturgy and its meaning made fresh in the 20th century. Likewise, the adoption of Western spirit of Renaissance and Baroque sensibilities can be seen played out in major metropolises in Ukraine. Most interestingly, modernity in art and architecture is explored through paintings, poster design, theatre and dance, as well as Art Deco architecture of Lviv and Soviet Constructivist architecture of Kyiv.
This lecture will describe, by highlighting key issues and examples, the journey in pursuit of Ukrainian identity.
Professor Puay-peng Ho is currently the Head of the Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore. Previously, he was Professor of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his First Class Honours degree in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh and a Ph.D. in Art History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.