Here at Steppe we have a great passion for the Soviet architecture of the Central Asian states. As an expression of the progress of thought, whether state or personal, this architecture is a real eye opener, and is rightly, finally, finding its place in helping to define and deconstruct a very complex time. Frederic Chaubin’s book CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed (reviewed in Steppe 9) brought us wonderful photos of some of the most exotic examples of post-war Soviet architecture across the former republics of the USSR, but in the exhibition ‘Trespassing Modernities’ at Salt Galata in Istanbul, Georg Schöllhammer delves deeper into the evolution of post-Stalinist Soviet architecture.
I’ve got my two adorable children to thank for entering a children’s store in Almaty and discovering these covetable rolling animals from Vishnyovii Papa (‘Cherry Papa’) designs, made by local designer Chingiz Shakurov. I am so thrilled to find something so attractive, well-designed, and fun which has been made in Kazakhstan. Such a treat after the endless shipping containers of Chinese plastic in the bazaar.
We are lucky enough at Steppe to have published two articles (Issues 6 and 7) using Carolyn Drake’s photos of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya; those two life-giving rivers are at the heart of Central Asia. They define the region absolutely. The land between them, called Mawarannahr (the land beyond the river) by the Arabs, is the settled heart of Central Asia, the land outside them the haunt of nomads, and the interaction of the two provides the history, the culture, the arts that we know and love today. Continue reading Two Rivers
Here at Steppe we’re getting excited about Nowruz, Persian New Year, which is celebrated across Central Asia on March 21st or a day either side depending on when the spring equinox (the sun entering the sign of Aries) is observed. The festival is a grand celebration of the coming of Spring and each country has its own traditions. As a starter for ten, we thought we’d share this beautifully illustrated video of Nowruz, Iran-style. More to come on the different ways it is celebrated in the region in the coming weeks.
If you’re up on your Uzbek Usmanov’s, you may well have heard of Alisher Usmanov – the billionaire steel magnate who has successfully diversified into telecommunications and new media, including a clever purchase of facebook shares that, it seems, netted him £1.4bn at their IPO last May. But you may well not have heard of Jamol Usmanov, an Uzbek painter influenced by Sufi philosophy and the Eastern Sufi poetry of Rumi, Navoi, Nizami et al, although we like to hope he too will become a household name.
Matthieu Paley is a favourite photographer at Steppe. His work conveys fluidity and an emotional connection with the individuals he captures on film. Which is why we are very excited by the publication of his latest book (co-authored by his wife, Mareile, and anthropologist Ted Callahan) on the Pamir Kyrgyz, whom he has been documenting for the last 10 years. Their daily life takes place against the backdrop of the magnificent Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan, and visually it is a compelling subject, touched by an ethereal beauty. Continue reading Pamir – Forgotten on the Roof of the World
After writing a short blog about the very cool Untamed Borders, James wrote to tell me about a new documentary/adventure film ‘White Silk Road’ which Untamed Borders helped to film and facilitate in Bamiyan. The film tells the story of 3 Australian boarders who travel to Afghanistan to try out some virgin runs. In Bamiyan they meet a group of get-up-and-go locals who have taken to the slopes in gumboots and wooden skis. Soon the Australians (Clint, Nick and Mitch) have them trying out snowboards and expanding their ideas of the possible. If the trailer is anything to go by, this looks like required viewing…
The lovely Anne-Laure Py, who wrote for us about ikats in Steppe 6, is a social entrepreneur and the founder of Craftspring which injects design ideas into Central Asian crafts and supplies a much needed market for the artisans of the region, focusing predominately on objects made of felt. Every time I see the products they have on offer I want to reach for my credit card and the latest Winter 2012 catalogue is no exception. Right now they only sell wholesale, but there is a long list of stores across the USA that stock their products, so check them out and be beguiled…
There are only so many travel companies willing to take you to Afghanistan, but to take you skiing? Definitely countable on the fingers of one hand, that is where Untamed Borders make their mark. A small travel company who organise personalised trips to northern Afghanistan and Pakistan they really know their stuff and will make sure that you come back with the memories reserved for the hardiest and most intrepid of travellers, whilst knowing that you are in good hands. Their itineraries don’t stop at adventure sports either; you think of something you would like to do in northern Afghanistan and they will arrange it and introduce you to a huge array of local colour as you go.
Kazakhstan’s four national museums have teamed together with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU to exhibit Kazakhstan’s exquisite bronze age nomadic heritage in Nomads and Networks. This exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery runs from 11 August to 12 November 2012. Amongst the exhibits are magnificent finds from the Scythian burial ground at Berel, in northeastern Kazakhstan. Excavated in 1998, the dig disclosed a frozen royal tomb and the remains of thirteen sacrificed horses. You can read a bit more about it here. And a bit more about the amazing Krym Altinbekov, who led the restoration of the horses’ harness and gear, in our latest edition of Steppe (Steppe 9). Amazing to think we have the permafrost to thank for something. And of course, don’t forget to visit the exhibition if you are in D.C.