Sunday, December 1, 2019

Citizenship Tastes Sweet to Kyrgyzstan Beekeeper

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Abdusamat Saparovat at his bee farm
In July this year, Kyrgyzstan became the first country in the world to end statelessness. The lawyer who spearheaded the work, Azizbek Ashurov, was named the winner of the $150,000 UN Nansen Refugee Award prize.

Ashurov was motivated by his own family's struggle to achieve Kyrgyz citizenship after arriving from Uzbekistan. Working closely with the Kyrgyz government, his organization, Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB) has been offering free legal assistance to displaced, stateless, and undocumented people.

This inspiring story, written by Kate Bond, was published on the UNHCR website on 30 September 2019 and is posted here with permission.

A breeze brushes through the grass. Donkeys meander along a dirt track. Amid a puff of grey smoke, Abdusamat Saparov opens the first of his 38 beehives.

He smiles, pleased with their progress. Three months ago, when he first bought these colonies, there were 4,000 bees in every box. Now, just like his own dreams, they are thriving, with each holding a whopping 10,000. Their neatly painted, wooden hives dot a patch of land surrounded by yurts and cattle, in the foothills of southern Kyrgyzstan’s mountains.

"It was my dream to be a beekeeper," says Abdusamat. "It’s the process, I like the process of taking care of bees. Of course," he adds, chuckling, "I also love the result, which is honey."

kyrgyzstan honey art craft, kyrgyzstan ends statelessness, kyrgyzstan traditions
Abdusamat Saparov beautiful hives

While his life now has a serene charm, it has been a monumental struggle for 54-year-old Abdusamat to achieve it. Born in Uzbekistan when it was still part of the Soviet Union, he fell in love and married a Kyrgyz woman in 1987, and the pair moved across the border to Kyrgyzstan. The country is "special," he says. "It has an ideal environment – ideal conditions and ideal flowers for the bees."

However, in 1995, his beekeeping hopes were shattered when a new law following the dissolution of the Soviet Union four years earlier left hundreds of thousands of people with invalid passports across Central Asia. Like many, the Saparov family became stateless overnight.

Statelessness blights the lives of millions of people worldwide. Those living without a legal identity document are often denied access to basic rights such as free movement, health care, education and employment.

Without citizenship, Abdusamat was unable to obtain the necessary license for beekeeping and forced to take odd jobs in construction, as he attempted to navigate a bureaucratic nightmare. "It was so difficult," he says, shaking his head. "I didn’t understand the paperwork and my applications for citizenship were refused."

Finally, in 2014, government officials put him in touch with Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders. The organization has spent the last 16 years helping to end statelessness in Kyrgyzstan, in what is being deemed a historic first.

kyrgyzstan honey art craft, kyrgyzstan ends statelessness, kyrgyzstan traditions
Azizbek Ashurov, the lawyer who assisted the Saparov family, takes a honey taste test.

Azizbek Ashurov, 38, was one of the lawyers who helped resolve the family’s case. It took five years.
"I knew it was his life’s dream to open a bee farm," he says. "But it was a very difficult case, because Abdusamat no longer had his old Soviet passport. So, we took it step by step. We started with his wife, because she was from Kyrgyzstan and that was simple. Then we applied for citizenship for the children."

Finally, in April this year, Abdusamat became a citizen. "The first thing he did was register for his beekeeping licence," recalls Ashurov.

After years of working in construction, it took Abdusamat just 20 days to build the hives. Each was lovingly painted white, yellow and blue. Distant relatives, who take their cattle into the mountains each summer, were quick to offer this new beekeeper a plot to place them.

"Our family has a lot of land here, " says 21-year-old Gulzada Ahmedova, the eldest daughter of the family. "We have lived on this land for centuries. We understand how important this is for him. It’s humanity."

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Abdusamat Saparov's dream fulfilled

Twice a week, Abdusamat takes the bus from Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, to spend the day with his hives. Once, he was stung 53 times. Now, he says it is painless. Recently, his daughter started advertising his honey online and the orders have come in thick and fast.

"They’re very smart," he says of the bees, with a happy chuckle. "When it’s too hot, they collect water and sprinkle it over the hives. They can fly up to 10,000 kilometres to find flowers. They can even find their home by smell."

Citizenship was the key that opened up his world. Although, ironically, the bees themselves already had their documents in order. "Bees need papers," says Abdusamat. "You need permission from the national beekeeping association. All of my bees have their documents. If even bees have documents, then people should too. Everybody needs to belong."

Related posts:
Kyrgyzstan Ends Statelessness in Historic First
Kyrgyzstan: Social Entrepreneur Finds Foothold in Tien Shan Foothills
Kyrgyz Woman Singer Remakes Poem Traditionally Sung By Men
Tea with Bread and Jam – a Traveller’s Appreciation of the Finer Things in Kyrgyz Life

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Suzanis in Art

Recently I posted an article about Ikat Textiles in Art. It was hugely popular, so I thought I would follow it up with this piece on suzanis depicted in artworks.

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Suzani Background, Robert Falk, 1943

The Robert Falk oil on canvas, above, is displayed in the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art, Nukus, named after I.V. Savitsky.

During WWII Falk was evacuated to Bashkiriya with the Jewish Theatre. From there he moved to Samarkand, where he taught in the School of Fine Arts.

Igor Savitsky, a graduate of the Moscow Institute of Art was also evacuated to Samarkand in the same period. He was painting the same model as Falk.

The young model preferred the portrait by Falk as she thought it made her beautiful and subsequently Savitsky destroyed his painting.

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Bukhara Masters, P.I. Kotov, 1920s

P. I. Kotov travelled extensively in Central Asia in the 1920s. The painting above now hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

The portrait below of Munzim Mirzo Abduvahid Burkhan Zade was painted in 1912 by Dimitriev - no other name details are known. It is hanging in Bukhara's Contemporary Art Museum. Very little is known of the artist. However, the artist has captured a face full of vigour with thoughtful eyes, his arm gently resting on a suzani.

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
 Portrait of Munzim Mirzo Abduvahid Burkhan Zade,  1912 by Dimitriev

Pavel Benkov came to Bukhara in 1928 and then settled in Samarkand in 1930.  It was a richly creative period in the artist's life and many portraits were undertaken that were exhibited in Moscow in 1961.

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Emir Official, Pavel Benkov 1929

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Samarkand Suzani Embroidery, Samarkand painter Namoz Sultanov.

With the recent rise of travel in Central Asia and export of suzanis and ikat textiles around the world, suzanis appear in contemporary art pieces. A selection is below.


suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Watermelon, Bananas, Suzani, Janet Fish 2009  

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Suzani, 2018 Carlo Russo

suzanis in art works, uzbekistan emborideries suzanis, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Suzani Chair,  Linda Arthurs

Related posts:
Ikat Textiles in Art
The Birth of Suzani - Madina Kasimbaeva's Exhibition, Tashkent
Uzbek Suzanis: Like Flowers in the Sand 
Valentino Haute Couture Meets Suzani 


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Soviet Metro Stations

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Metro Station Uralmash, Yekaterinburg, Russia - cool, strong women.
And are they computers? Image: Christopher Herwig
Anyone interested in Soviet design will love this book. Christopher Herwig - who put together the splendid two-volume series "Soviet Bus Stops" - has  photographed the stations of each Metro network of the former USSR.

Tashkent's glorious subterranean system, the most opulent of all after Moscow and Leningrad, is a reminder that Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the USSR.

It was a hugely important metropolis and a deliberately conceived model for visitors from post-colonial countries, showing the benefits of Soviet-style socialism.

Rather than the straightforward systems of London, Paris or New York, Soviet networks were used as a propaganda artwork―a fusion of sculpture, architecture and art that combined Byzantine, medieval, baroque and constructivist ideas and infused them with the notion that communism would mean a “communal luxury” for all.

Today these astonishing spaces remain the closest realization of a Soviet utopia. 

As well as stunning photography, the book includes a comprehensive essay on the history and designs of Soviet metros by leading British writer Own Hatherley, who writes primarily on architecture, politics and culture.

Here is an extract from the press release : "From extreme marble and chandelier opulence to brutal futuristic minimalist glory, Soviet Metro Stations documents this wealth of diverse architecture. Along the way Herwig captures the elements that make up this singular Soviet experience: neon, concrete, escalators, signage, mosaics and relief sculptures all combine to build a vivid map of the Soviet Metro".

Published by innovative London-based design and publishing house, FUEL, this is a book to treasure. And to give to friends who dig Soviet style.

More images below.

Related posts:
Uzbekistan's Secret Underground
Soviet Asia: Soviet Modernist Architecture in Central Asia 
Almaty, Kazakhstan - Riding the New Metro
Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums 
Azerbaijan: Baku's Metro
Kyrgyzstan's Bus Stops
Back in the USSR: Soviet Roadside Architecture

soviet metro stations herwig, tashkent metro stations, art craft small group tours uzbekistan
Entrance to Minsk metro station Kastryčnickaja, Belarussia. Image: Christopher Herwig
 
soviet metro stations herwig, tashkent metro stations, art craft small group tours uzbekistan
Prospekt Bolshevikov Metro Station, St.Petersburg, Russia. Image: Christopher Herwig


soviet metro stations herwig, tashkent metro stations, art craft small group tours uzbekistan
Shuliavska Metro, Kiev, Ukraine. Image: Christopher Herwig

soviet metro stations herwig, tashkent metro stations, art craft small group tours uzbekistan
Olmazor metro, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Image: Christopher Herwig

soviet metro stations herwig, tashkent metro stations, art craft small group tours uzbekistan
⁠Metro station Prospekt Kosmonavtov, Yekaterinburg, Russia. Image: Christopher Herwig