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.
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.
Findus ready meals may not have reached Central Asia but there’s undeniably a very close alliance between man and beast in this vast tract of Central Asia.
A Kazakh nomads’ expression states, ‘Kazakhs are born on horseback’. If we take a leisurely canter from nomad life into the present day, we see the survival of horsemeat as a luxurious food in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Whilst on academic business there, I grasped the opportunity to pursue a sober study of this neglected subject. I visited two yamarka (outdoor markets) – one in Almaty, the former capital and largest city; the other 500km north in Stepnogorsk, a former closed Soviet town with notable levels of uranium, rare metals and gold. Continue reading Horsemeat: The Real Deal
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
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…
An old friend of ours here at Steppe recently launched Travel Local – a site set up to allow travellers from anywhere in the world to book their trip through a locally owned company in their destination, and to do so with complete confidence (payments are 100% protected). For the traveller it means cheaper, high quality trips and for local companies it allows a greater share in the tourism revenue and, I suspect, a more heightened interest in ensuring that everything goes completely to plan. Continue reading Travel Local