Viktoriia Tofan

(b. 1993, lives in Wrocław)

is a graduate of the National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture in Kyiv and the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. She is an author of sculptures, installations, paintings, and sound works. Her work explores themes of cultural memory, forms of building social bonds, as well as their breaking, destruction and violence. She also works with the experience of alienation, with communication issues encountered by deaf persons and other minorities.

from the series Tessera hospitalis, 2022, ribbed steel bars, welded, unfinished, oiled, clay, black engobe, natural pigments, courtesy of the artist

Ritual Vessels, clay, black engobe

Representing various periods and cultures, the vessels bear reference to the symbolism of hospitality and the spiritual dimension of everyday material culture. Tessera hospitalis is the name of an ancient ritual of showing friendship and bond across time and space using ceramic vessels. When someone hosted a guest, they broke a clay vessel in two, handing one to the foreigner and keeping one for oneself. If the guest’s descendant ever arrived at the same home, they would be recognized by fitting the two shards together. In the Christian tradition, a guest was offered bread, water, and wine. Water and wine symbolized man and all mankind, and water stood for life. The breaking of bread was a token of love and unity in a human community.

A partition bowl was used by members of the prehistoric Trypillia culture for earth-fertility rituals. The function of the partition was to prevent the offerings poured into the bowl during the ritual (water, milk, ghee, grain seeds) from becoming mixed. Today the bowl is used to keep or serve food.

The Ukrainian makitra (Polish makutra, “[poppy-]mixing bowl”) is a cone-shaped, rough-surface vessel of baked clay, used to raise bread dough or grind poppy or other foods using a special grinding stick called the makagon. Among the different kinds of earthenware, the makitra stands out for its versatility in the kitchen.

The jug (Ukrainian glek, glechik) is a tall round vessel, usually with a handle, used as a container for water, but also for milk, cream, whey etc. An indispensable attribute of country life in Ukraine, jugs were also used for ritual purposes.

Hospitality/Hostility, 2022, formed unfinished steel sheet, oiled, embroidery, cotton threads

In a world that is globally connected on unequal terms, being hospitable requires not only realizing the significance of past traditions, but also reintegrating the broken pieces of human culture. The challenge is not to accept a familiar, similar other under one’s roof and into one’s family, but to allow the strange, unknown, fringe to make a presence in public space. The point is to host such an alterity that involves the risk, but also the gift, of destabilizing the hosts’ life, the world of the given society’s majority.


Back ↵