Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monthly Montage: Kazakh Life

Inspired by both the Kazakh New Year, 'Nowriz' which just passed in March and my recent infatuation with BBC's Human Planet series, this month's montage will be focused on the Kazakh population in Mongolia. Concentrated in my corner of the country, the westernmost province of Bayan Olgii is comprised almost exclusively of Kazakhs. Here in Hovd we have a Kazakh minority that is quite vibrant, though sadly Kazakhs here face frequent discrimination. Over the past year I have put forth my best efforts in tandem with a development worker from another organization in creating a Kazakh Cultural Center here in town. While I don't think I'll be here to see our efforts into fruition due to my rapidly approaching Close of Service date, it has roused in me a very deep awareness of this marginalized population and the unique culture that it possesses. So take a look at the smattering of Kazakh-related pics below; some are of Kazakh events, some are Kazakhs themselves and others are just life in the neighboring province. I hope you'll be as intrigued as I am by this group. But first BBC's Human Planet highlights the hunters among us.
(PS apologies in advance for some wack formatting. I have yet to figure out how to publish pictures properly according to caption size...Eek! Sorry!)
My student, Tiku. Of four classes, he is one of the only two boys who has stuck with Access.
I couldn't resist. Such a sweet baby!
At a special Kazakh concert in Hovd. He is playing the dombra, a traditional instrument with three strings.
A concert singer sporting pretty sweet traditional dress.
Kaz, Kazakh horse sausage, is super popular and surprisingly tasty.
Beshbarmak, meaning 5 fingers, a special meal to celebrate a friend's new apartment.
Bayan Olgii Aimag Center from afar.
Life in Bayan Olgii can be tough since the Kazakhs are so marginalized. Here boys fetch water from the frozen river.
In the Olgii Square. Many are still very fond of the Soviet era.
The local school in Bayan Olgii. In front of the school is a stature of a Russian soldier running away and shooting backwards at the school. No idea why.
A very large and fancy байшин, or house. Kazakhs tend to live in these in the winter and bigger gers in the summer.
Chopping coal to heat my friend's modest байшин. Dogs are to be expected in both Kazakh and Mongolian yards, they're excellent guards. Thankfully Ruthie was a friendly sentinel.
And sometimes when you live in a байшин it gets a little too hot and you light your roof on fire. Subsequently, it seems like a good idea to empty the contents of an entire fire extinguisher into the tiny space.
My friend's student. He invited us for Nowriz last year.
The traditional Nowriz fair is a 7-ingredient soup.
In the Kazakh tradition, meat is served in big hunks on a large platter. It is the oldest man's job to cut and serve.
The landscape between Hovd and Olgii during a vodka/pee break en route.
Umm sheep head.
Standing on a hill over a yak farm after a breakdown between Olgii and Hovd hoping to capture the expansive isolation.
Grandma and baby!
In their finest array, the community turns out for a parade.
Older women walking proudly in their wimples.
A fancy float. Though religion has more cultural significance than anything, Kazakhs are still very attached to their Muslim roots. For reference, Mongolians are similarly only quasi-devout Buddhists.
The real mosque in Olgii.
Perhaps one of the best known parts of Kazakh culture, an eagle hunter with his feathered friend.
More of the landscape between Hovd and Olgii. This time featuring fertile camels.
Another relatively well known part of Kazakh culture, handicrafts- especially wall hangings. They are all beautiful handmade, including the date it was finished and the name of the maker. Sadly though they are vanishing quickly.
The head hancho at the Eagle Fest. Quite an ensemble.
Hunters in the sun. I very much hope they'll be able to keep this incredible tradition alive.
A hunter on his horse with a owner-less eagle in the foreground.
I took my students to experience Nowriz at a Kazakh student's home. Remarkably, though they have been living among Kazkahs their whole lives, they had never celebrated the most important Kazkah holiday or even been inside a Kazakh house.
Cross culture bonding between teachers at a Peace Corps training. One of the Kazakh counterparts brought kaz to UB all the way from Olgii and shared it with her new Mongolian friends.

1 comment:

E in Atlanta said...

I love these pictures. what an amazing, memorable experience you are having. Sharing with such a fascinating culture.