Creative arts charity, 6 million+, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a very special project.
Dear Sunflowers will bring together artists, volunteers, refugees and members of the Ukrainian community to create a spectacular musical performance and procession in Holmfirth and Dewsbury in June 2024 inspired by the life and work of extraordinary Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko (1908-1997).
Maria Prymachenko was a self-taught artist, working in a folk-art style with vivid, colourful depictions of animals, plants and people. She has been widely celebrated with her images appearing on Ukrainian stamps and coins.
Pablo Picasso on seeing Prymachenko’s work at the 1937 Paris World Fair said: “I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian.”
Marc Chagall also admired her work calling his own images of fantastical creatures “the cousins of the strange beasts of Maria Prymachenko.”
Maria experienced many hardships in her life, living in poverty, having polio as a child, losing her husband and brother in World War Two and living less than 20 miles away from Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear disaster in 1986.
Her later works were based on her dreams and became subtly political in response to the turbulence of life around her.
Her work has come to the forefront with the war in Ukraine, with some of her paintings destroyed in bombing attacks and USA artists using her image of a dove to call for peace.
Dear Sunflowers will combine music, puppetry, masks, banners, embroidery and performance, with workshops led by artists from both local and Ukrainian backgrounds for refugees, local volunteers and the Ukrainian community in Kirklees.
The artworks of Prymachenko will provide an opportunity for Ukrainian group members to share their culture and a starting point for other group members to explore their own ideas and cultural backgrounds.
The aim is to foster friendship and understanding between cultures, reducing isolation and loneliness and boosting social and emotional well-being.
A spokesman said: “6 million+ is a registered charity based in Kirklees. We exchange and express stories of the Holocaust, genocides and contemporary persecution at home and abroad. We challenge discrimination of any kind and work towards a kinder future.
“May 2024 is our 10th anniversary. We want this to be a celebratory time, with Dear Sunflowers at the heart of our celebration. We are currently working with volunteers, artist and refugees from the UK, Kurdistan (Iraq), Nigeria, Syria, Chad, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sudan and Ukraine, who are all excited about this project. We will collaborate with the British Ukrainian Friendship Association and local Ukrainian group Mukirka.
“We will work together to create masks and giant puppets to tell the story of Maria Prymachenko preparing a procession and a 20-minute storytelling performance, which will be shown at Holmfirth Arts Festival and as part of town centre events in Dewsbury.”
Project leader Adam Strickson said: “At 6 million+, we have been delighted to get to know Ukrainian refugees over the past year. They have brought so much talent and enthusiasm to our projects and now we want to celebrate their culture.
“We have partnered with Spacehive, the most successful crowdfunding platform in the UK, to launch a campaign to raise funds from supporters, which will help to lever in matched funding from other community grant giving sources locally.
“We have already raised over £1,000 but need much more support to reach our goal of £17,000 by the end of April.”
To support the project go to https://www.spacehive.com/dear-sunflowers