Arts·ART IS MY COUNTRY

Ola Volo transforms the Kazakh folktales she heard at her grandparents' farm into stunning murals

"My grandparents would put on records and we would just listen to folktale stories. I spent a lot of time kind of getting swept away into a different world."

'I spent a lot of time getting swept away into a different world'

The bigger the wall, the more of a voice it has.- Ola Volo, muralist

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Introducing our new series Art Is My Country. See the stories of 10 bicultural Canadian artists explore the rupture and rebirth of navigating somewhere between identities. Watch more.

When mural artist Ola Volo was studying graphic design she felt she couldn't find her voice. "I kept getting asked 'what kind of story are you telling with your design?'"

Volo moved to Vancouver when she was 10 after a childhood in Kazakhstan where she spent time at her grandparents' farm listening to old records of Kazakh folktales.

Growing up in Kazakhstan at my grandparents' farm, my grandparents would put on records and we would just listen to folktale stories. I spent a lot of time kind of getting swept away into a different world. 

Fast-forward back to studying graphic design in Canada: "It was such an interesting moment, all of a sudden I realized I had so many stories that were yet untold." 

"I wanted to revisit the characters I knew so well that inspired me and carried me throughout my childhood, but give them a completely different persona."

I studied graphic design… I just couldn't find my voice. I kept getting asked 'what kind of story are you telling with your design?'
(Ola Volo)
It is an imagined world that I create of Russian and Kazakh and Polish stories, and the minute I started doing the artwork on walls it became larger than me.

Volo has represented Canada at mural festivals and says that people can tell she's a Canadian artist from her style. "I have people come in and look at the art and go 'ah you're Canadian, ah yeah I see that in your work - yup Canadian artist!"

"That's such a highlight because we're going towards my perspective of how art should be represented in Canada as multicultural and vibrant and it's got all sorts of stories intertwined."

(Ola Volo)
I have people look at the art and go 'ah you're Canadian, ah yeah I see that in your work — yup Canadian artist!
(Ola Volo)

Art Is My Country is a CBC Arts series that explores the singular worlds of artists who consider themselves bicultural. Seen through the eyes of 10 Canadian artists who have either immigrated to Canada or felt the need to reclaim an identity they thought they had lost, the series examines how each artist uses their craft to navigate, explore and adapt to their new reality and shifting identity.

Each portrait will highlight one artist's story of rupture, displacement and ultimate rebirth as a new artistic voice contributing to the narrative of Canadian culture and experience. Watch the full series now.

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