Ukraine in peacetime: Avantika Meattle’s photographs humanizes the war-struck nation

Avantika Meattle’s exhibition of photographs taken on a recent trip to Ukraine highlights the eclectic architecture of buildings which may have now been reduced to rubble

Avantika Meattle’s solo photography exhibition, ‘Ukraine: Untold Glimpses’ captures the glory of the country before the current devastation. The exhibition was inaugurated by Shashi Tharoor and is on display at India Habitat Centre 29-31 March.

Landscapes of pre-war Ukraine

Meattle, who is based in Delhi, has till now been famous as a wedding photographer. She is also a passionate traveller who likes to bring alive the emotions and socio-cultural underpinnings of the city, architectural treasures and people.

On her short trip to Kyiv and Lviv from 27 December to 2 January, she documented the rich history and vibrant culture of the country. 

“I fell in love with the country, there is a lot of history back there just like India. People are seeing the current Ukraine through news, but I wanted to show them what Ukraine was at its glory, at its peak, the architecture…I wanted people to experience Ukraine just like I did – with love,” said Meattle addressing the media.

Avantika Meattle at the Open Palm Court, IHC, Delhi.

“I want to say this turnout is very impressive. It’s a wonderful collection of photographs,” said Tharoor during the inauguration. “Avantika travelled to Ukraine in January and we’ve seen the results on the walls of this lovely space of the Indian Habitat Centre. She also has a very very interesting eye and as a result she has given life to various images of Ukraine. It’s absolutely fascinating if you get to see a place with a certain level of poignancy because we don’t know whether any of those buildings in the pictures are still standing after the relentless bombings.”  

The exhibition brings out the architecture  of Ukraine, which is a blend of Nordic, European, Russian and Ottoman history and cultures. Meattle has experimented with various media to showcase life in Ukraine, presenting photographs in the form of postcards, large prints, lenticular display and video projection – before the dark wave shadowed them.

Seeing the city ravaged and devastated is heartbreaking. The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration today. Things may never be the same again, but it was a blessing to visit the country with all its richness, said Meattle in her curatorial note.

About India’s stance during the crisis, Tharoor said “I think India’s gone through a very complicated and challenging time. There is no doubt that India, in its very first statement, seemed to be a little unwilling to say anything. In our subsequent statements, while we have continued to abstain on the votes at the UN, we have been a little more bold in reiterating these principles and our diplomacy has taken into account the multifarious interests we have to look after. With Russia we have a dependence”.

“Our expectation is that India will come up with more and more pressure to deliberate instead, perhaps to press the Russians to end their intervention. We have an old relationship with them (Russia) but at the same time we don’t feel what they are doing in Ukraine is entirely acceptable or justifiable and therefore we want to give some comfort to the other side (Ukraine) as well”, added Tharoor

As for Meattle, she feels restless watching the war from afar. “I wanted to go again but  wasn’t given permission. I hope one day I can revisit Ukraine. All the proceeds from the sale of photographs will be contributed to the Ukraine crisis relief fund ”, concluded Meattle.

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