Sofia Melikova is a multidisciplinary artist and human rights activist based in St. Petersburg. Sofia belongs to a disappearing indigenous ethnic and linguistic group from Caucasus – the Tsakhurs, and represents her community on the national and international level. Sofia graduated from the North-West Academy of Public Administration (2005–2010), the University of Flensburg (2010–2013), and is a former Senior 2019 OHCHR minority fellow. Sofia is currently pursuing an advanced degree at the Academy of Documentary Photography and Photojournalism, Fotografika, in St. Petersburg
CONFERENCES, FORUMS, SPEECHES
2021 ‘RightCon’ Speaker, 2021 Tbilisi Photography Museum Art-Residency, CineDOC Film Mentoring Programme (February–May 2021); Nikon-Noor Academy Participant (March 2021); UN Forum on Minority Issues Fellow and Speaker (2018, 2019, 2010), Global Media Forum Speaker (2019), European Regional Forum on Minority Issues Speaker (2019, 2020).
Joint online exhibition “When there is no future” on “Wall-Online” (April–May 2021);
Joint exhibition “Where past remains”, “Plastilin” art collective, St. Petersburg (April 2021);
Joint exhibition “Worlds created by love”, Open Living Room (St. Petersburg, March 2021);
International photography exhibition on the “Salvation” project (Netherlands, 2020);
Victory in the National Photo- and Video Contest “Active People”, Publication in Media (“Agency of Social Information”) and TV-Interview on the Russian Public Television Channel “OTR” (2019);
Victory and Street Exhibition in the National Contest “Objective Gratitude” (2019, 2020, 2021);
Victory in the International Photo Contest “Overcoming borders” and Photo Exhibition (2019);
Personal photo exhibition “Urban sketches” (St. Petersburg, Russia, 2019);
Victory in the regional photo competition and exhibition within the “Woman to woman” project (2019).
Sofia’s speech about women empowerment and women from my community at the United Nations:
Areas of interest: Photography, Visual Storytelling, Filmmaking, Self-performances, Chants.
Topics: Indigenous peoples, Ancient cultures and beliefs, Interethnic & Interreligious relations, Women Empowerment, Spirituality.
MagiC Carpets project
MagiC Carpets project
6-month Online Art Residency Accompanied by a Long-term Mentorship Program & Production Grant for South Caucasian Women Photographers mentored by Newsha Tavakolian/Magnum Photos was implemented in the period of April–September 2021. See more about the Residency in here.
Project “Valley of Tsa”
“Valley of Tsa” is an ongoing multimedia project about the right to choose to be who you truly are. The project is based on my personal story of being the first ever female artist from my indigenous traditional Muslim community. On my way to self-acceptance I am awakening our ancient pre-Islamic Pagan and Zoroastrian traditions, whose elements have still remain to this day in our rituals, and in which women played the crucial role in the society. Thus, by following the “call of blood”, I re-animate our ancient spirits and remind the society of the values and wisdom that has been forgotten.
The project consists of several parts, including photoseries, a video-art/film and a book. During the art-residency I will be working on the development of video-art/film.
Past projects you are proud of:
Documentary photography project
“Salvation” is a documentary photography project launched in April 2019, which is dedicated to people rescuing homeless and sick animals.
The goal of the project is to analyze the very act of salvation and the reasons that push people to such an act. What motivates these people to manifest altruism? Why do they help animals? I found the answers to all these questions in the personalities of the characters and their life stories. Most of them had to go through many life difficulties and disappointments, ranging from an orphanage to bullying.
But a person cannot live without love. Thus, having become disappointed in people, they started to share care and love with animals. To date, the project consists of five reports made in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region.
Separate photo stories of the project became winners of the competition “Objective gratitude” (2019, 2020), “Overcoming the boundaries” (2019), “Active people” (2019). Also, the project was exhibited several times in Russia and at an exhibition in Rotterdam (2020). It was shown on the Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Channel Five.
What inspires you as an artist? Nature, forest, mountains, travelling, books (especially autobiographies and books about ancient cultures, beliefs, religions), human stories, dance, performance, sound, chants, craft handmade work, theatre, museums.
What do you think is the purpose of art? Here I would relate myself to Oscar Wilde’s famous words: “Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct or influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility.”
As for me, the true artist creates without any purpose because he/she true is free of Ego or any other constraints and limitations. While creating a masterpiece, the true artist is absolutely free and does not know what the result will be in the end. Thus, the true art does not follow any purpose. Art itself is the purpose.
Your favourite book(s):
From the recently read ones: Roerich “Seven great secrets of the Cosmos”, C. P. Estes “Women who run with the wolves”, Erich Neumann “The Great Mother”, Elif Shafak “The forty rules of love”.
And, of course, the eternal classics: Goethe’s “Faust”, Rumi’s poetry, Carl Jung, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” and many many others.
Your favourite film(s): Tarkovsky’s “Mirror” and “Sacrifice”, Kurosawa’s “Dreams”, Parajanov’s “Colour of Pomegranates”, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates”, Fatih Akin’s “Gegen die Wand”, Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the waves”, Dariush Mehrjui’s “Circle”, Asghar’s Farhadi’s “Climates”.