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14/05/10 - Asrlar Sadosi Festival: Rejuvenating the Ages-Old Customs

posted 19 Jan 2012, 05:10 by Ambasciata Uzbekistan   [ updated 19 Jan 2012, 05:13 ]

Like the rhythm of time passing by years and centuries, the potter’s wheel twirls around as if reflecting various types of fascinating national traditions, songs, and dances. Even today they keep on sounding with new power and colors bearing the entire depth and beauty of the soul of people echoed from the ancient times. Two years ago, when we first heard of the festival of national artistic creativity Asrlar Sadosi (Echo of Ages), we had little idea of the scale of this project initiated by the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation. Yet the festival has withered all our expectations. Turning into a traditional occasion, this major holiday of national art is held every year as open-air festivities in various regions of Uzbekistan, in historical and cultural centers with unique cultural heritage and centuries-old customs passed carefully from generation to generation.

The first Asrlar Sadosi festival was organized in Kitob district of Qashqadaryo region. Early in the morning that day, Kitob locals woke up to discover that their boundless picturesque native land designed all around in glittering decorations. This land from the far past was famous for its beauty, unique culture and fine legends. The festival organized in Qashaqadaryo region took its worthy place in the list of those legends that echoed in the future, to tell the next generations about the events occurred in the 21st century.

People were in expectation of miracle and they got it, the festivities spread far and wide. The picturesque places of the region and tops of green hills won admiration of visitors. Throughout the whole festival the hills were full of bright marquees, while slopes were decorated with emblems of Asrlar Sadosi.

The program of the festival was rather eventful. It gathered a record number of participants and guests. Long before the beginning of the festival, hundreds of folk singers, over 60 masters of applied art, dozens of chefs willed to participate in the project. In total, more than 500 people became active participants of the Asrlar Sadosi festival.

Last year, it was Tashkent region to host Asrlar Sadosi festival, occasioned to the 2,200th anniversary of the capital. It also brought customs and cultures from all regions of Uzbekistan. Open-air festivities spread across Bo’stonliq district, on the pastoral sceneries of which among green hills and warm May days a picturesque park was pitched to display pieces of fine and applied art by masters from all around Uzbekistan.

Like at the previous festival, its agenda was quite eventful and, besides, was supplemented with scientific projects organized within cultural and educational programs. Moreover, the festival agenda included master classes by widely-known academicians of the country.

As for the scale and extraordinary features of the project, the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan has started the range of measures following the outcomes of each festival. Thus, in accordance with the results of the first festival held in 2008, a scientific expedition to Qashqadaryo region was organized. The expedition included renowned academicians, art historians, as well as art workers of Uzbekistan. The expedition studied national traditions, unique types of art and folklore, local way of life, ceremonies and customs preserved in remote areas of the region.

This year, the territory of historical monument Ichan Qala, the historical center of one of the most ancient towns in Uzbekistan, Khiva, has become the venue for the third Asrlar Sadosi festival. This place is considered the center for many traditional forms of the Uzbek art and crafts where ancient traditions of the Uzbeks are passed down from generation to generation. There is no other town where a whole part of the town has been preserved to our days, like Ichan Qala in Khiva which, being a historical and architectural monument, gives a clear idea about the medieval town of Central Asia. The ancient and beautiful Ichan Qala, a silent witness to ages-old events awakened on these days having filled with life, creativity and joyful laughter.

Each day began with a festive procession. With the sounds of karnay and sunray, festival participants walked through the main street of Ichan Qala, conveying their mood to numerous spectators through their songs and dances. It is hard to imagine how many people walked on the ancient stone streets during the festival, where like a bright rainbow under the generous sun embroidered suzane, national fabrics – shokhi bekasam, adras, bakhmal, atlas, khon-atlas, shawls and skullcaps – jewelry and many other things carrying unique patterns and shades through centuries blurred with colors.

There was a large fair spread throughout the entire festival, where, just like centuries ago, there was a brisk trade. Here, craftsmen sincerely and heartily pleased visitors with their exquisite wood carving works, subtlety and richness of patterns of minting copper and brass, elegant pottery, luxurious of gold-embroidery and many more. And the dolls dressed in brightly colored traditional costumes delighted adults and children.

The festival became a great celebration of arts which included festivities, performances of folklore bands, national games and many other things. Also, there was an auction of antiques organized by the Association of Antiquarians of Uzbekistan MEROS.

The performances of bahshi were quite spectacular. Getting preserved the national traditions, they even today are considered the living art, which now is skillfully grasped by the youth. Songs performed by laureate of the Kelajak Ovozi contest, young bahshi from Karakalpakstan Azim Dauletmuradov caught the people’s fancy as well, who danced to the songs with great enthusiasm. Heart of the nation, its wise words sounded that reflected all the riches and diversity of live creative art.

There was a fascinating development everywhere on the improvised scenes and just on the streets and squares of the ancient city – a competition of folk groups that always distinguish with immediacy of perceiving the world and the natural expression of feelings. This symphony of colors of national costumes, born under the bright sun of the sacred land of Uzbekistan, stirring songs and dances displayed all the grandeur to the admirers of folk music.

Usually, popular games are most spectacular. They tend to collect a large number of fans. The most crowded event is usually the competition of oshpazs, where even the most seasoned connoisseurs can get confused in the aroma of dishes. The best chefs from different parts of the country participate in it. The national empire of taste presents a lot of different dishes here. And tandyr-kabob (meat baked with archa in tandyr - a clay oven) and pilaf are the main dishes, of course.

Regular participants of the festival Asrlar Sadosi are the youngsters – laureates of the contests Yangi Avlod and Kelajak Ovozi, no less successful projects of the Fund Forum. Here the young talents could not only to see and admire the events occurring, but also to demonstrate their skills, to be the part of the unique centuries-old culture.  Getting held their own among the well-known hereditary ustoz (masters), they demonstrate their best products looking at which none will stay indifferent. So many names of genuine talents managed the organizers of the contests to discover, and then support them on their way of gaining higher and higher heights. And this task is the part of the mission of the Fund Forum – not only to discover a talent but support it in the future. And the Fund defines this problem a special part of mission - not simply to light an asterisk, but also to cherish light of its creativity, to support and direct in the future. Original master classes on festival opening days inspired the young artists who with bated breath were learning more about secrets of the present creativity from eminent masters.

The project has also held several scientific and educational activities. These are lectures and master classes conducted by scientists and archaeologists.

One of the central events of the festival was a scientific conference on “Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan: the Art of Calligraphy and Architecture Epigraphy”, that brought together leading domestic and foreign scientists. Today, a lot of work to study the culture of the region since the ancient period is conducted in Uzbekistan. The topics of medieval culture on which the Fund Forum focuses in preparation of basic research projects with participation of leading scientists of the country are of particular relevance. Phased work of the Fund in this area includes publishing the results of scientific research data in the form of impressive publications, catalogs, books, albums worldwide and their further presentation at the international level. Last year, the British edition of a book by academician of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan E. Rtveladze “Civilizations, nations, cultures of Central Asia” was presented at the festival which was quite successful at home and abroad.

     This time, the Fund Forum presented another fundamental work “Samples of eastern calligraphy and miniature art of 7-21st centuries”. It is the first experience of ordering and systematization of rare specimens of calligraphy and miniatures of the East. The presentation of this edition was held at the scientific conference organized within the festival and turned out to be quite interesting for the scientists. Currently, with the support of the Fund Forum the scientists are preparing other interesting works that include a project to create an archaeological map of Uzbekistan and the catalog of architectural monuments of Uzbekistan. An attempt to systematize and cataloging of historical heritage in this area is conducted the first time and now attracts attention of many specialists in this field.

Besides, researchers of Bukhoro, Samarqand, Termiz and Qarshi conduct a joint project on study and decryption of epigraphic inscriptions on the monuments of medieval architecture in Uzbekistan. on the initiative of the Fund Forum, during 9 months scientists of the country studied and decrypted inscriptions on world famous architectural monuments Shokhi Zinda, Gur-Emir, Amir Temur Mosque, Bibikhanum Mausoleum, Registan and others, a total of over 2000 ethnographic episodes.

Prominent scientists directly involved in these studies reported the results of their work during the conference. Thus, the academic secretary of the Ichan Qala museum of Khiva, candidate of historical sciences, Kamiljan Khudaiberganov made an interesting remark in its report ‘The Role of Epigraphic Inscriptions in the Study of the History of Khiva Khanate’.

As it turned out, Khivan epigraphic inscriptions represent a range of historical sources which telling much about the history of our country. More than a hundred architectural monuments of the city contain about 200 epigraphic inscriptions in Arabic, Persian and Old Uzbek languages. They are carved on marble, metal, majolica as a decoration. They contain the names of architects, artists and calligraphers, engravers, dates of life and death of great people, names of buildings, economic situation of that era and much more.

Poetic stone chronicles bear information about the development of literature, names of unknown poets, historical dates and abjad calendar, while Sharab puzzles provide an opportunity to learn about the development of mathematics.

Analysis shows that Khivan epigraphic inscriptions differ from others because they are mainly contain verses of poets, dates of some historical events in verse. A lot Rubai (quatrains) are written on the architectural monuments. We have analyzed epigraphic inscriptions on mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud, a famous fighter, craftsman, great philosopher. His 350 Rubai written under a penname Puroyvali were translated from Persian into the Uzbek language. Twenty one Rubai are written on the tiles at the base of the dome in the interior honako.

The study of epigraphic inscriptions reveals still unknown pages of history of Khorazm, helps find answers to queries of numerous travelers and visitors. But most importantly, it allows us to fill the lost parts of inscriptions for future generations.

Thus, every year the scientific component of Asrlar Sadosi festival opens new themes in the study of culture and history, brings together scientists and researchers, as well as presents the result of laborious work to the public.

This year the festival coincided with the Day of Memory and Honor in Uzbekistan, as the Fund Forum organized a special charitable event in Khiva. On this occasion, veterans and their families were invited to the holiday pilaf.

A traditional festival of national dress became a true ornament of Asrlar Sadosi. Young designers from all regions of the country presented their collections of costumes demonstrated by students of local universities. The show consisted of several parts: first went ancient national costumes from all regions, then modern ones. Those were spectacular apparels combining traditional motifs with modern style. Children who left nobody indifferent with enthusiasm and spontaneity of presenting children’s collections, won a particular delight and applause.

Asrlar Sadosi festival ended with a big gala concert that featured amateur folk groups, winners of Yangi Avlod and Kelajak Ovozi contests along with popular singers. The mood and enthusiasm filled the entire space and hearts of numerous participants of this festive event, where performers and the audience united in one rhythm of songs and dances, while the bright colors of folk costumes soaked in the generous sun of Uzbekistan riveted the eyes to one scene that embraced the diversity and colors from all regions of the country under the arches of Ichan Qala.

The open-air festival drew a wide response among the wider public of Uzbekistan and foreign experts. That is the reason of the regular increase of number of guests. Yet, the last year festival was visited by more than 15 thousand people including over a hundred foreign guests from France, US, Turkey, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, - many of whom were well-known art and culture figures, academics and researchers, representatives of authoritative international media, diplomatic corps and international organizations.

Today the national art, its role in modern culture becomes rather urgent. And Asrlar Sadosi festival once again proves that showed up the Uzbek people’s talent, power and the major aspect – the unity in love for homeland, national traditions and culture.

There is always something new to discover in this country
Robert Blum, President of the Circle Diplomatique de Geneve, Switzerland:

I am very pleased to be here at Asrlar Sadosi festival and discover this wonderful city of Khiva. Two years ago I was in Uzbekistan at Style.UZ and got unforgettable impressions. But this time I discovered many interesting and new colors in the culture and traditions of Uzbek people, particularly Khivans. With my colleagues from Switzerland I was able to visit an exhibition of applied arts, concerts and other exciting events organized within the festival and gained a good deal of information for a report about it. This report will help Europeans learn more about the culture of your nation, traditions, ancient history of this wonderful country with a rich ethnic history.

Colorful, bold, impressive
Countess Marta Marzotto, Italy:

Having received an invitation from the Fund Forum to Asrlar Sadosi festival I had no idea about your country and Central Asia. However as I came here to this wonderful country I grew happy to find myself here. This is a fascinating country of rich culture and beautiful costumes, wonderful ancient cities. My son owns a travel company, and I think my impressions of Uzbekistan will be very important to him. I can not wait to tell all my friends about Uzbekistan and show works of applied art eloquently representing the culture of the Uzbek people.

Speechless to describe what I saw
Shirin Akiner, expert at Cambridge Central Asia Forum, UK:

The festival has left deep impressions on me. I was struck by its scope, enthusiasm of people who came to this wonderful celebration of folk art. Everything here was quite exciting: diversity of traditions presented at the festival, crafts, folklore and much more. From the national cuisine, which I think is a very important element of popular culture, through to scientific wing of the festival, where there was a lot to explore about scientific research by Uzbek scholars as well as a unique project of an archaeological map of Uzbekistan and a catalogue of architectural monuments of Uzbekistan. The project of calligraphy and epigraphy books is a fundamental work. I am too speechless to estimate its importance. Written culture is pretty advanced in this country with loads of ancient inscriptions. However, a great deal of work is to be done for compiling a catalogue on them. This has been, in my opinion, quite an ambitious project. I just cannot imagine how they have managed to finish it in such a short time span. This is surely a crucial job, because, first of all, everything we have today should be recorded since much of the heritage could disappear as time passes by. Second, it is important to make this material available to everyone in Uzbekistan as well as the wider Muslim world as part of world culture.

I was really glad to see a lot of young people at the festival. For it is rather essential to convey to young people the history and respect for traditions, and this festival plays here a significant role.

Those two days at the festival made me think about the fact that we live and sometimes fail to notice what is happening around us. Events such as this help us assess and realize who we are, how and where to go, what we want and what our values are. It was a real folk festival with traditional games, songs and dances. It has a symbolic and historic importance as it shows the time flow, changes in life, however there is something valuable, unchangeable that is left for the next generations.

Cataloguing the historical heritage
Amriddin Berdimuradov, director, Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan:

As was noted at the conference held during Asrlar Sadosi the festival, the creation of an archaeological map of Uzbekistan is divided into two phases: the first stage cover exploration of memorial sites. Each region has special squads for the exploration and archaeological study of memorials. Until the end of 2010 they are to re-examine all the existing archaeological monuments. The works will be performed under a single program: photography, description, identification of exact location using satellite positioning tools and identification of contemporary address for each monument and collection of archaeological materials. Then there will be scientific processing of materials. Publication of a complete set of maps of archeological monuments of Uzbekistan will contribute to not only their effective protection and rational use, but also give a powerful impetus to recreation of a historical picture of the distant past of our country. The archaeological map of ancient and medieval monuments will serve as a basis for their certification and compiling of a complete inventory.

Epigraphy reveals the secrets of antiquity
Behruz Ma’rufiy, director, Registan Architectural Complex, head of the creative group for the study of epigraphic monuments in Samarqand region:

Thanks to a comprehensive support of the Fund Forum, the first stage of this laborious and important work on the study and decryption of epigraphic inscriptions on the world-famous architectural monuments of Samarqand has completed. The most important thing in my opinion, was the restoration of architectural monuments of culture. Our task was to make a plaster cast of each epigraphy, each character imprinted on the arches and marble domes of the monuments. With the assistance of epigraphy research works, the scientific staff of Registan ensemble managed to justify 8 objects: entrance portal of Tilla Kori Mosque, as well as Sherdor, Ulugbek madrasahs, Gur-Emir mausoleum and others. Years later, these priceless inscriptions may get lost. Currently, 70 percent of inscriptions on Sherdor madrasah are absent. Thanks to this initiative, now we can fully restore them. I’d like to add that the creative team also used photographs of architectural monuments while decrypting the inscriptions of historical and architectural memorials. Among them was a unique picture dated to late 19 century, which captured the front view of a large portal of Amir Temur Mosque. So we were able to restore original shapes of two unique inscriptions on the inside arch of the entrance portal.

A great honor to participate in the festival
Muhammad Bobojonov, master furrier in the seventh generation, Khiva:

I am very proud of our city for hosting such a prestigious festival in Khiva, where I got a lot of impressions, met with many artisans. I am the seventh generation of the family to manufacture hats of sheep and wool – chigirma – that were popular in the Middle Ages. My father taught me this trade. However, today the technology for manufacturing these hats has slightly changed due to reduction in weight, they have become much lighter. Previously, these hats weighed no less than 2 kg. The process of making a hat takes one week, from cleaning wool to sewing. Our produce has great success not only among the local population but also among foreign visitors.

 Art left from ancestors
Akhmadjon Abdulatipov, craftsman, Namangan:

I am a master in national fabrics – satin and adras. I am a representative of a dynasty and 45 years engaged in this trade. Within the traditions of the “master-apprentice” school I share the secrets of my craft with 10 pupils.

I was greatly impressed with the festival and what I saw there. This is a great opportunity to meet with other masters and learn from them, get acquainted with different schools, the arts of other regions. I was honored to participate in this festival and, along with well-known artists, demonstrate my works. I really loved the works in ceramics, gold thread embroidery and suzane, the richness of colors and patterns. Such festivals promote exchange of craftsmen experiences.

Proud of the talents of our land
Sultonmurod Abdujalilov, art manager, folk ensemble Muhallas, Republic of Karakalpakstan:

It’s our first participation in the festival. Wearing national costumes, our group has presented songs and dances accompanied by music played on national instruments – kabuz, dutar, chankovuz. The performance was warmly welcomed. And it is not surprising since music, songs and dances go along with us throughout our lives. And the variety of music that sounded here rejoiced our souls and made us happy for the talents living in our land.