Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's On in Tashkent

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Scene from Love, Death & Rock n Roll staged at the Ilkhom theatre
Tashkent is a marvellous city.  It is so pleasurable to ride the beautiful metro, stroll along the canals, visit the wide range of museums and enjoy the parks. It is a shame that tourists usually just stay one night and then head out to the ancient Silk Road cities.

What is frustrating for visitors, however, is finding out what  events are scheduled in the city. There is no Uzbek "Time Out" publication and staff at Tashkent hotels are usually not up-to-date with what's on.

Here are my tips to enjoy the city's theatre, music and cinema. Note that you will need to constantly use online free translation services - see below for an illustration.

Also note that in summer, from mid-June through mid-September, theatres and concert halls tend to close.

Armed with performances, times and phone numbers, you can then ask your hotel reception staff to contact the venue, double check the information, book tickets. and arrange transport if required. Generally performances start early, around 1800 - 1830.

1.  Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre

This beautiful theatre is under renovation. At this stage it is not known when it will reopen. Instead, opera and ballet performances, as well as pop concerts, are held at the Turkeston Palace Concert Hall. Usually the program is published about 3 weeks in advance. Tickets are around US$8.

Website: http://www.gabt.uz/

2.   Tashkent State Conservatory of Music

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Tashkent State Conservatory of Music
As well as training outstanding musicians, the Conservatory's four halls are frequently the venue for European and Uzbek classical, jazz, techno and pop concerts. The Uzbekistan Symphony Orchestra performs there as well as foreign performers.

Website: http://www.konservatoriya.uz/  (frequently down, so call: +99871 2445320, +99871 2449508)

3.  Ilkhom Theater

The innovative Ilkhom Theater was founded in 1976 and was the first theatre in the USSR without any links to government. As well as theatre, there are jazz and rock concerts held there, a regular cinema club and art exhibitions. Sometimes English surtitles are provided - look for these words in the program: с титрами на английском языке. However, even if there are no surtitles, try to catch a performance there. The space is cool, there is a café and the energy of this company is remarkable. Tickets less than US$10.

Website: http://ilkhom.com/en/ 

4.   Russian Academic Theatre
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Scene from Bulgakov's Zoyka's Apartment at the Russian theatre

If you are a Russian speaker, then this company, performing plays from the classical and modern Russian repertoire will appeal. Tickets about US$8.

Website: http://ardt.uz/

4.  Uzbekistan National Academic Drama Theatre

Yes - performances are in Uzbek. But it is a chance for you to experience a slice of Uzbek cultural life.  There are musicals based on Uzbek folk tales, as well as contemporary and classical plays. Tickets about US$6.

Website: http://teatr.uz/

5.   ТЧК Coworking Center

This is the first coworking space in Central Asia. As well as being a 24-hour operation for freelancing workers (fast wifi!), there are regular cinema screenings by the Paradiso Cineclub, concerts, talks by Uzbek entrepreneurs, IT specialists, and creative workshops such as photography. Great energy.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/t4k.coworking

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Paradiso Cibeclub regularly screens films at ТЧК
 6.  Tashkent Events Newsletter

A simple, fortnightly online publication, this newsletter is pitched at expatriates in Tashkent. It includes information hard to find elsewhere (e.g. free yoga classes at the India Embassy in Tashkent!) and is useful for details about exhibitions and craft bazaars.

Website: http://newsletters.tashkent-events.info/newsletters/info.html

7.   My Day

This very useful website consolidates "what's on" in the city. There is an extensive food and restaurant section, cinema, theatre, exhibitions and sport.  Be prepared to spend time understanding how the site works. It is in Russian only but well worth the effort.

Website: http://myday.uz/

8.   Afisha

Similar to My Day, Afisha consolidates concerts, theatre performances, exhibitions etc. There is also a section on fashion and children's activities.

Website: http://www.afisha.uz/

Online translation 

There are many free online translation tools, such as Google - https://translate.google.com/ . Select the language options from Russian to English, then copy and paste the website address into the Russian box.Click the link in the English box to render the site in English.

Google's Chrome browser offers an automatic translation service of web pages.

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Using Google's online translation service


If you know other helpful sites, please send them to me.

Related posts: 48 Hours in Tashkent
Another 48 Hours in Tashkent
Tashkent – A Night at the Opera
All Tashkent posts

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #2

Lilya Kas'yanova
Lilya Kas'yanova, one of Kyrgyzstan's finest guides, is passionate about the history, art and craft of her country. A graduate in Linguistics and Intercultural Communications from I. Arabaev Kyrgyz State University, she is also a keen photographer and hiker.  Lilya regularly leads Uzbek Journeys tours in Kyrgyzstan.
 

Part 1 of this article was published last week. It provided an overview of  headdress customs and regional variations. This second part outlines other headdress variations and describes present-day efforts to keep this tradition alive. In particular, Lilya wishes to express her profound gratitude to Aidai Asangulova for providing much of the information for these articles.

Other headdress variations

 

kyrgyzstan costume textiles, kyrgyzstan headresses, kyrgyzstan tours
Majestic variety of elechek worn by Elechek creative group members. Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs

In 2013, with the support of the Christensen Fund, a research project Elechek, began in Kyrgyzstan. Using material gathered during the Soviet period, the research found that age and marital status had an impact on headdress.

Young,  married women wore:

jash kelinderdin kichine elechegi – a small, creative elechek and
kelin kelek – a newly married woman's turban, specific to southern Kyrgyzstan

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Tunduk - Northern elechek. Image: Erkin & Arthur Boljurovs
The elechek was braided with ruby cloth for newly married women.  Two to three years after marriage,  it was thought that "The tide of newly married is over as well as the term of ruby band".

Middle-aged women's headdresses had no braiding. They wore either:

kaz elechek (principal elechek) – turban of vast size or
tokol elechek (moderate-size turban) – tokol means "second wife" and in the historical sources, there are references to Kyrgyz polygamy.

Elderly women wore  kempir kelek, a poorly embroidered elechek. 

As part of the Elechek Project, thirty women in Kyrgyzstan and the Murghab region of Tajikistan were identified as being able to wind elechek.

However, thanks largely to people such as as Nisakan Malabekova, a resident of Sary-Mogol village of Alay district in Osh Province, the great, long-standing national tradition of distinctively gorgeous head wear creations is being kept alive. Nisakan mentors her fellow villagers on how to wind kelek or sorogoy (protruding or sticking out), elechek specific for the Alay region.

Elechek project


As mentioned above, in 2013 the Elechek project was implemented with the support of the Christensen Fund, to focus on the preservation of this valuable aspect of the Kyrgyz traditional culture for present and future generations.

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Alay Valley, Southern Kyrgyzstan. Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs.
The project working team comprised A. Kalkanova, N. Momunbaeva, E. Tilekov, and was headed by felt maker Aidai Asangulova. They gathered information from the few remaining custodians of the elechek creation method, as well as knowledge about the women who used to wear elechek (or still put it on occasionally).

Invaluable knowledge was passed from one generation to the next, i.e. the project respondents inherited the practice from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and mothers-in-law.

As a part of the research, it was discovered that the interviewees residing in Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Osh, as well as in Murghab Region of the Tajik Republic, possess information on eight types of turban. The eight versions of elechek were then reconstructed.

On the basis of  other data collected,  as well as essential records and images obtained from Soviet manuscripts about the material culture of Central Asian people, five more varieties of elechek were reproduced.

The project's closing stage was marked by The Kyrgyz Traditional Elechek exhibition mounted at the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum, in Bishkek, at the end of 2013.

Director of the museum, Anarkul Isirailova, reported that the exhibition featured the reconstructed elecheks as well as headdresses in the museum's collection, obtained during the 1920s - 1950s. Historical photographs from the State cinema archives and documents from the collections of the State Historical Museum were also included.

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Tunduk - Northern elechek. Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs
Aidai Asangulova, leader of the creative team, will continue researching elechek. A visit to Aidai's felt workshop is included in Uzbek Journeys tours to Kyrgyzstan.

Contact Lilya on: lolya.87(at) mail (dot) ru
Read all Lilya's articles. 

Related posts: 
Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #1
100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan
Yurts of Central Asia Part #1
Yurts of Central Asia Part #2

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #1

Lilya Kas'yanova,
Lilya Kas'yanova, one of Kyrgyzstan's finest guides, is passionate about the history, art and craft of her country. A graduate in Linguistics and Intercultural Communications from I. Arabaev Kyrgyz State University, she is also a keen photographer and hiker. In this article Lilya, who regularly leads Uzbek Journeys tours in Kyrgyzstan, provides an overview of the traditional  Kyrgyz headdress, the customs associated with it and regional style variations.

Part 2, to be published next week, will
describe present-day efforts to keep this tradition alive. In particular, Lilya wishes to express her profound gratitude to Aidai Asangulova for providing much of the information for these articles.




Overview of Kyrgyz elechek


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Kiyiz duino festival, Southern Kyrgyzstan. Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs.

The magnificent, traditional headdress of Kyrgyz married women, wound like a turban, is known as elechek.  The shape of elechek varies from simple wraps to quite complicated ones, depending on which region of Kyrgyzstan the woman lives.

An elechek may include a cap-takiya (or chach cap), which is a tiny helmet-like bonnet that fits tightly on the head.  There is an embroidered kuiruk (fabric strip) at the back to cover the woman’s plaits. Soviet scholars believed that cap-takiya and kuiruk are relatively later additions.

Cap-takiya can be supplemented by jaak (earflaps) at the sides. Silver pendants with corals adorned the base of the jaak. A rectangular piece of fabric, covering the neck and affixed under the chin, is placed on top of the cap-takiya. Then a white cloth is used for winding the turban.

Wealthy Kyrgyz women used twenty five – thirty meters of snow-white fabric.  Middle class women settled for five – seven meters of cloth.

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B. Baizakova, maker of traditional carpets, sipping her tea in Issyk-Kul Province. Image source - Kyrgyz State Archive

A particular type of decoration – kyrgak - was fixed on elechek. The kyrgak was a silver plate on which could be added corals, pearls, and other semi-precious stones, coins, or silk ribbons and embroidery. In addition to all the parts listed above, a fine, ornamented shawl could be rolled over the turban.

Kyrgyz headdress customs


As mentioned above, elechek is for married women. For the first three days of married life, a woman wore a headscarf.  Then rituals that emphasised the woman’s transition to married life accompanied the change from scarf to elechek.

At this ceremony, the elechek was wrapped by a senior woman, usually the bride’s senior sister-in-law. As the elechek was wound around her head, other women would sing wishes for the bride’s happiness and prosperity. They also urged the young woman to respect her seniors.

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Tunduk - Northern elechek.  Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs.

An elechek was worn year round. It had to be worn in the presence of the father-in-law and brothers-in-law. Even when making a fire and cooking, indeed when doing any household chore, women wore it. It was unacceptable to leave a yurt, even to get some water, without putting it on. It was said that if an elechek was removed from a woman’s head, she would be deprived of dignity and respect.

Elechek also had a practical use. In the event of being away from home, a woman, who had just given birth, could unwind her elechek and use the fabric to swaddle her newborn child. As circumstances required, a snow-white elechek could be used as a shroud for someone who had passed away during a nomadic trip.

At times, the next-of-kin of a deceased woman preserved the elechek as a family heirloom. In some cases, it was possible to see elechek among funeral accessories.

Although still worn into the early 20th century, it was gradually replaced by simple head scarves. On special occasions and festivals it may still be worn, however, most modern elechek are not authentic - a cardboard frame is wrapped in fabric.

Regional variations


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Tunduk - Northern elechek. Image by Erkin and Arthur Boljurovs
In the past, her headdress could determine a woman’s tribal affiliations.

In northern Kyrgyzstan, an elechek consisted of the following parts: a tiny, helmet-like bonnet with a fabric strip at the back to cover plaits. The turban was placed on top then covered by fine white cloth.  The northerners wound it in spirals – thus the elechek was cylindrical. The end of the cloth then hung on the left side affixed with a pin. (See the photo at right).

In the northwest, the headdress was called an ileki and was either round or oval. The massive upper part and rather small forehead band were regional identifying features.

Historical records show that in Osh province, in southern Kyrgyzstan, the headdress, known there as kelek, was enormous with an impressive forehead roll. Sometimes, a duriya (fine shawl)  was placed over the turban.

The second part of this article will outline other headdress variations as well as describe present-day efforts to keep this tradition alive.

Materials source:

1. Mahova E.I., Collected volume The peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, 1963 
2. C.I. Antipina, Aspects of Material culture and Applied arts of the South Kyrgyz 1962

Contact Lilya on: lolya.87(at) mail (dot) ru
Read all Lilya's articles. 


Related posts: Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #2
Kyrgyz Chii - Yurt Screens and Mats
Manaschi - Bards of Kyrgyzstan
6 Quirky Things About Kyrgyzstan
5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan