Victoria Lomasko and the Graphic Language of Empathy

Annie Gérin
“Our failure is one of imagination, of empathy: we have failed to hold this reality in mind.” — Susan Sontag

In 2014, Russian artist Victoria Lomasko travelled to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. There, she made sketches of couples dancing in the only gay club in a country that does not recognize its LGBTQI community. Lomasko drew young female activists working toward holding the first ever Manaschi1 1 - Manaschi are male reciters of the Epic of Manas. contest for women with the support of the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund. She also spoke with members of the Dungan community, a disadvantaged minority group of Chinese origin living on Kyrgyz soil. The following year, Lomasko visited Yerevan, Armenia. She sat down with idle youths, senior citizens, Syrian refugees, women involved in the sex trade, prison inmates, and activists who fight to protect their neighbourhood from being demolished. In 2016 and 2017, she travelled to Georgia and Dagestan. Again, she sought out people living on the margins: squatters, members of ethnic minorities, artists, and freedom-of-speech activists. And she drew those who confided in her, empathetically creating their portraits from life and transcribing their testimonies directly onto the white pages of her sketchbook.

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This article also appears in the issue 95 - Empathy

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