News Saari Residence 01.07.2022 Ukrainian Solidarity Residencies: Mari Zhiginas Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa Share: When the war in Ukraine started, four Finnish art organizations collaborated to help Ukrainian artists and art professionals, and the Ukraine Solidarity residencies programme began in spring 2022. The programme offers residencies and accommodation for Ukrainian and Ukraine-based artists and art professionals fleeing from Ukraine or displaced due to the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian jazz singer Mari Zhiginas works and lives at the Saari Residence with her family. Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background? My name is Marie Zhiginas; I am a jazz vocalist and vocal teacher. I was born in Chernihiv, and I grew up there. In 2005, I moved to Kyiv and continued my studies. I have a family, and I am a mother of three children. Since 2000, I have been performing on stage, participating in festivals and touring with concerts. I am also the author of the vocal technique “Speaking Singing”, a method which I use as a teacher. I prepare my concerts (I choose songs, write arrangements, etc.) and teach vocals (I lead groups, master classes, and individual classes). Both of these areas are important to me. My slogan is: “Vocals are the voice of the soul!” It is the basis of my development both in solo performance and in my vocal technique. My vocal technique, “Speaking Singing”, has been polished with the help of my students. I started my career as a musician at the Revutsky Chernihiv Music College in the “conductor-choral” department. After that, I studied at the R. Glier Kyiv Institute of Music in the department of “the art of singing and jazz”. I also received a master’s degree there. It was while studying jazz vocals at the Institute of Music that I began to work on finding my voice as a unique individual musical instrument. Subsequently, this is the basis of my methodology. And this work has been successfully going on for more than 20 years. What things or themes are you working with during your residency in Saari? In the Saari Residence, I am working on concerts and methodology. The first project was the joint work with the Saari Fellows, where I sang atonal music. Then there were two more projects and three concerts, one of them was “Ukrainian Family in Finland”, the second was “Sounds from Ukraine – Mari Zhiginas”. The concerts have taken place in Turku, Helsinki and Mynämaki. Thanks to the Ukraine Solidarity Residencies programme grant at Saari, I could purchase additional classes in improvisation and arrangements. The atmosphere and surroundings in Saari helped me immerse myself as much as possible, to be closer to the natural flow of life, nature. The absence of distracting city bustle removes a layer of tension through which it isn’t easy to penetrate the depths of your soul. How did you get to Finland? On 24 February, Russia attacked Ukraine. My family woke up at 5.30 in the morning from calls; everyone was calling at once, WAR, MISSILES, WE WERE ATTACKED… And then a carousel of horror, pain, fear and endless tears. We were running away from the war. After leaving for Moldova, my cousin from Helsinki sent a questionnaire, and I filled it out without reading it. A week later, I received an invitation for Ukrainian Solidarity Residencies and a place in the Saari Residence. At that time, I didn’t understand what was going on, how and where we were going, but the way to Finland became a light at the end of the tunnel. How are you experiencing the war? What does it mean to you as a Ukrainian? War is the violence of freedom; this war is a crime against humanity. Ukrainian cities are being wiped off the face of the earth! And Ukrainians are a strong, persistent, fearless nation and our strength and heart have no limits! It’s tough to accept that you didn’t touch anyone, didn’t bother anyone and wanted to live peacefully and happily. It’s hard to accept that you are not considered, and that a person’s life is worthless. Our lands have been destroyed and smashed, Ukrainians have been massively raped and killed, children have been left crippled without arms and legs, and whole families have been shot on the roads. How can you survive this? The grief is of boundless scale. Do you trust the news? If not, could you give an example? In the Internet age, fakes and propaganda have distorted reality; it’s hard to realize the scope of this irreversible process. It’s scary when a lie changes consciousness, and you are guilty without fault. But there will be no mercy for more than one person who has done inhumane acts. And there is no forgiveness for all the false words spoken in justification of atrocities and outrages. It must be hard to think about the future, but do you have any plans for after the war, or are you trying to live your life day by day right now? How do you feel about the future? Now the future is an illusion. It is taken away from us. We were forced to live in the present. I do not know how to plan my life when my world could be destroyed at any moment. Now I’m learning to be in the present. However, I had to turn to specialists; the war raised many processes. But now I have learned to feel happiness at the moment, joy from work, life, relatives, and myself! And after the war, I have only one plan to rebuild and develop our country. Now I feel more harmonious and balanced, as much as possible in this situation. Thanks to the hospitality of Finland, we were able to continue living. The children went to school and kindergarten; I had the opportunity to immerse myself in work. We are gradually reviving. What kind of expectations do you have regarding this residency? What has Saari offered you? When I arrived in Finland and Mietoinen, I had no expectations about Saari; I was here by the will of fate. But now, I can say that Saari has become for me a place of stabilization, rethinking and the possibility of discovering my potential. The residency was the beginning of a new stage for me as a musician and teacher. Thanks to the Kone Foundation, I could continue my studies and acquire essential knowledge for the profession. Grant made possible what used to be dreams. Has the war changed the way you approach your art? The war has changed the way I approach my art. I’ve always sung more entertaining music and a little romantic-tragic. Now I look at the songs differently. For example, Bernice Petkere’s song “Close your eyes” has always been a light romantic Latin, and now it sounds to me like a tragic posthumous lullaby. These are heavy emotions; during the performance, I am on the verge of breaking my voice from an overabundance of feelings; this is a previously unknown role for me. These are the adjustments in creativity. What can the rest of the world do now? What would be the main message you would like to get across? If you ask me what the rest of the world can do now, I would say: Stay human! This is the main thing we should strive for every day! There is no more tremendous grief than the death of loved ones. We should not agree with this attitude; we should not agree with violence. They attacked not only Ukraine but also attacked the entire civilized world. Before the start of the war, just a week before, I was shooting a video work in Kyiv with a wonderful photographer, young and talented. He is no longer alive; is this how we should live? Disagree! Every litre of Russian gasoline purchased, every cubic meter of gas, and any Russian product is payment for our deaths. Don’t justify or pay for the war. It is essential to realize that the world is one! And there are no limits to both joy and grief. It is necessary to try by all means to stop the war and return the occupied territories to Ukraine War is the violence of freedom; this war is a crime against humanity. Ukrainian cities are being wiped off the face of the earth! And Ukrainians are a strong, persistent, fearless nation and our strength and heart have no limits! If you ask me what the rest of the world can do now, I would say: Stay human! This is the main thing we should strive for every day! There is no more tremendous grief than the death of loved ones. We should not agree with this attitude; we should not agree with violence. They attacked not only Ukraine but also attacked the entire civilized world. Before the start of the war, just a week before, I was shooting a video work in Kyiv with a wonderful photographer, young and talented. He is no longer alive; is this how we should live? Disagree! Every litre of Russian gasoline purchased, every cubic meter of gas, and any Russian product is payment for our deaths. Don’t justify or pay for the war. It is essential to realize that the world is one! And there are no limits to both joy and grief. It is necessary to try by all means to stop the war and return the occupied territories to Ukraine.