Community Art Project: Families Beyond Boundaries

Families Beyond Boundaries is a mixed-media community art project that explores loss and the impact of being split from family and friends - whilst also exploring concepts of being united and standing together when apart.

The project is jointly led by Ukrainian academic Olga Sovenko (Honorary Lecturer, School of Art, Media and American Studies) and the UEA University of Sanctuary team.

Through the mediums of screen-printing and photography, the project aims to represent Ukrainian families that have been divided by war and forced to live in different parts of the world. Each family member photographed will be visually united by the clothing they are wearing - a unique homemade screen-printed t-shirt. Whilst the backdrop of the photographs will depict two different parts of the world, the screen-printed t-shirts will unite the families and visually symbolise the connection that remains no matter how many miles lay between them.

Families Beyond Boundaries Screen-printing Workshop and Exhibition

On 14th May 2023 (Mother's day in Ukraine), 12 Ukrainian families who are currently based in the UK came together to undertake the first stage of the project, a group t-shirt screen-printing workshop.

All attendees have loved ones who remain in Ukraine, many of which have not having seen their family members since the war started in spring 2022.

During the 3-hours session, participants were supported to create unique stencil designs which they then screen-printed onto t-shirts, with each attendee printing t-shirts for family members in both the UK and Ukraine. The t-shirts were then posted to the family members who remain in Ukraine. Each package also included a handwritten note on a postcard designed by Ukrainian artist, Olha Shamrai.

Artwork of Ukrainian families

The second stage of the project is currently underway, with all attendees photographing themselves in their screen-printed t-shirts. The photographs will be exhibited during UEA Refugee Week 2024 from 4-31 March in The Enterprise Centre Foyer, University of East Anglia.

Further information on co-lead Olga Sovenko

Olga Sovenko is a sociologist who joined the University of East Anglia in spring 2022 as an honoury lecturer in the School of Art, Media and American Studies. In February 2023, she was awarded a research fellowship through the British Academy. Olga's main research project is dedicated to exploring Ukrainian families' lives under the threat of war and other challenges. Olga is working with families who have been internally displaced alongside those who are seeking sanctuary outside of Ukraine.