Karipbek Kuyukov makes a portrait of Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Jamil Khan, Senior ReporterThe Kazakhstan Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai presented renowned Kazakhstani artist Karipbek Kuyukov, who exhibited his harrowing and intimate portraits of victims of nuclear radiation. His work is so raw and honest, it is difficult to not be deeply affected by it as Kuyukov shows you one of the darkest chapters of Kazakhstan’s history.
Karipbek Kuyukov’s art speaks about the history of nuclear technology and Kazakhstan as well as the future of the nuclear uncertainty that we’re headed towards. Thousands of visitors to the Kazakhstan Pavilion were able to see the experiences of Kuyukov and many other Kazakhstanis through his art.
Kuyukov draws from his own life when he creates his art critiquing humanity’s unending quest for power and the destruction that quest brings with it. He isn’t the only one from his village and the surrounding area who suffered directly from the nuclear testing.
He was born without hands in a small Kazakh village, located only 100 kilometres away from the main nuclear testing base in the Soviet Union known as the Semipalatinsk Polygon. Over the 42 years of experiments and more than 450 explosions, Kuyukov witnessed the disastrous consequences that nuclear testing has for human health and life.
Karipbek Kuyukov has often said that he inherited his resilience and strength to be patient and persevere from his parents.
Speaking about his struggle for a peaceful life for himself and his homeland, he said, “Sometimes I wonder how many challenges one person can withstand and the more fate tests us for strength, the more we need to resist. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan could have easily become one of the world leaders in the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. Doing so would mean taking the easy path. I am incredibly happy that we have chosen a different path and I am very proud that I live in Kazakhstan - a country that has set an example for the whole planet by being the first to abandon this nuclear programme.”
Since he was a child, he has met numerous people whose lives have been invariably altered as a consequence of the nuclear tests in the proximity. He draws portraits of these people which act as statements on human pain, doom, fear, and powerlessness without the use of any words.
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