Art was instilled in Vafa Rustamova from an early age. She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and grew up in a real artist family. It formed the basis for her impressive works of art.
‘My father was a professor at the art academy,’ says Vafa. “He was extremely talented. He painted, etched and could draw beautifully. Although he left me free to become what I wanted to be, I soon followed in his footsteps. I started painting when I was five years old. It happened naturally. Art was in my blood. I painted at any free time of the day, before and after school. I learned a lot from my father and experimented with different materials and styles.’
‘My father has always been a great source of inspiration,’ Vafa continues. But my inspiration comes from everywhere. I let my feelings guide me, like a musician who writes his songs. In my art I incorporate the night, the orchids in the window sill, the Frisian horses in the meadows of Drachten, or a beautiful book that I read. And I am inspired by the work of Vincent van Gogh. I think that’s wonderful. If you look closely, you can sometimes see more than a thousand colors!’
Landscapes, emotions, philosophies, her own family: Vafa’s artworks cover a variety of subjects. But there is one aspect that predominates, and that is her Azerbaijani roots. Azerbaijani painting has a rich history dating back to the pre-Islamic era. It distinguishes itself, among other things, in the clear and lively use of color. Gold and silver are also often added to add shine. In addition, there is a lot of symbolism from the local culture and folklore to give meaning to the work.
Different techniques and materials
In addition, Azerbaijani painting is often influenced by other styles and schools from the region and the world. Vafa’s art is also characterized by a mix of cultures. Russian influences are a remnant of her time in a Russian high school. But the French culture – the country where her family lived for some time – is also reflected in her work. ‘I prefer to work with many different techniques and materials. Oil paint and acrylic, or a mix of them. In my opinion, the technique is less important than the idea and the emotion behind it.’
Incidentally, Vafa is not just limited to the canvas. She also enjoys working with ceramics and painting them. From a Russian babushka to the girl with a pearl earring and the ladybugs in the backyard: Vafa brings it all back, in her own colors and with her own twist. But her heart is in painting. ‘At the moment I paint a lot of Dutch landscapes. I’d like to make a whole study out of it. The longer you look, the more beautiful everything becomes. The swans in the ditch, old people on their bicycles: beautiful.’
From Drachten to Eindhoven
Vafa has now been living in the Netherlands for 23 years, together with her husband Rasim. They have lived and exhibited in many places, partly in collaboration with the Ana Vatan Foundation. ‘I think I’ve already exhibited at a thousand locations, from Drachten to Eindhoven. But I still miss Azerbaijan regularly. Inside I always stay connected to my homeland. The word ‘Azerbaijan’ literally means ‘land of fire’. And my heart still burns.’
The Ana Vatan Foundation is committed to the Azerbaijani language and culture. Mayise Gündogdu, who came to live in the Netherlands in 2003, has been chairperson since 2011. Although the foundation is specifically for Azerbaijani women, men are also very welcome at the various activities.