AOI rewards artwork about Ukrainian refugees’ trauma… made by Russian illustrator

On December 19, The Association of Illustrators (AOI) announced the winners of the Annual Global Healthcare Illustration Awards 2022. The Gold award with a cash prize of £3,000 was given to Russian Anna Khokhlova for her artwork about the war in Ukraine. This choice raised a lot of questions from the Ukrainian and foreign illustrators’ community.

What happened

More than 2,000 illustrators from all over applied for the competition, and in October the jury whittled this list down to the 50 shortlisted illustrations. The jury was headed by award-winning illustrator Luca D’Urbino.

The Gold award with a cash prize of £3,000 went to A Case of Sound Pollution by Anna Khokhlova from Moscow, which supposes to show Ukrainian refugees’ post-traumatic reactions, caused by the war Russia started in Ukraine.

Though AOI describes Anna as a person who supports Ukrainians and also faces big changes in her life due to the war, the jury’s choice expectedly caused outrage among the Ukrainian community in original AOI tweet’s replies. This tweet was later deleted.

What is the point

Users from Ukraine and other countries emphasized that the jury’s choice was ill-conceived, because of rewarding the representative of the aggressor country for her artwork, in which she exploits the topic of the suffering of Ukrainians from the actions of her homeland.

“Let’s reward the Russians for the suffering of others, which they have caused,”

“Choosing a Russian author as the winner for a work inspired by the war in Ukraine, which was started by Russia, is a terrible decision.”

“the Russians are profiting from the trauma that they themselves caused, a classic,”

those and many similar comments appeared under the AOI tweet.

One of the Twitter users has even found the information that reveals Anna is working for “Yandex.Education”, which is a Russian company controlled by the government and actively helping to spread Russian propaganda. This is data from her portfolio (now closed, but preserved in the web archive).

Now what?

AOI deleted the original tweet and posted a statement, admitting that the decision to reward a Russian artist for her artwork about Ukrainians was a misjudgment and apologized for that.

However, the prize was not withdrawn.