From Great steppe to great plains

July 09. Kazpravda


From Great steppe to great plainsAhead of the Day of the capital, a Kazakh-American project “Native Land was presented at the Modern Art Gallery of the Independence Palace.

The photo exhibition “NativeLand” arrived in Astana from the Kasteev Art Museum of Almaty, where it was initiated by the head of the department of press, culture and education in the U.S. Consulate General in Kazakhstan Tristram Perry.

One day, looking through the online catalog of the Congress Library, he came across a photo collection “Turkestan Album,” in which he noticed thematic, historical and cultural likenesses to the photo collection by Edward S. Curtis “North American Indians. Once well-known, then forgotten in the twentieth century, these two albums became deservedly valued only now with the growing interest in the study and preservation of nomadic peoples’ culture.

The Turkestan Album was made in 1871-1872 on the order of Governor-General of Turkestan Region Konstantin von Kaufman and is essentially a capacious encyclopedic photo document, accurately describing the people of the Central Asian remote territories. Accidentally discovered in an antique shop, the Turkestan Album was acquired by the U.S. Library of Congress and thus retained its historical and cultural significance.

The photo collection “North American Indians,” created in the time from the 90s of the nineteenth century to the 1930s, unveils the history and traditions of the people with  similar lifestyles, dictated by natural conditions like those in south Kazakhstan.

The remarkable ethno-cultural likeness of the peoples separated by vast expanses of land and the ocean, is based on cultural and philosophical universalities, like harmony with the heaven and earth, worship of ancestors. Structure and functionality of portable dwellings (yurts and tipis), crafts, household and ceremonial occasions, a special importance of a horse in man’s life – this and much more arrests the eye.

However, further historical paths of the Great Steppe and Great Plains peoples differ. For centuries the Kazakh Khanate had been struggling for their own state and, having undergone many political vicissitudes, established itself as an independent Republic of Kazakhstan, whereas the North American tribes appeared to be part of the American nation and their ethnic and cultural peculiarities exist as part of the U.S. ethnically diverse culture.

The photo exhibition “NativeLand” at the IndependencePalace is another topic for intercultural dialogue of Kazakhstan and the United States to complement political and economic ties between the two nations.