Nomad 2023: A Living Land: Celebration of Art and Culture in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan
Naryn, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of the Kyrgyz Tien Shan mountains, recently witnessed a remarkable transformation by hosting Nomad 2023 – A Living Land Festival, organized by the University of Central Asia’s School of Arts and Sciences. This unique event held from 22 to 24 September, fulfilled its aim of engaging communities through various events celebrating the multi-dimensional concept of land. The three-day event attracted a diverse audience of artists, filmmakers, writers, and creatives from across the region and beyond.
The festival showcased a range of works that explored the relationship between people and the land, and how this relationship shapes our identity and culture. This central theme promoted sustainable practices and encouraged a deeper understanding of preserving the environment for future generations.
“There is nothing more unthinkable than our roots in the land, the land under our feet, shaping the orbits of our thought, the realm of the possible, who we are as a person, a family, a community of ever-evolving souls. We can see it, we can touch it, we can live it… but amidst the daily distractions, frustrations, and despair we may never fully appreciate we are the land and the land us…,” said Dr Soheil Ashrafi, Chair of the Nomad 2023 Festival; Associate Dean of UCA’s School of Arts and Sciences, at the Opening Ceremony.
The spotlight event was the International Film Festival, which screened a selection of films that explored the theme of land. The films were from more than 40 countries and from six continents, and they covered genres from feature and drama to documentary. The films were judged by a panel of experts, and awards were given to the best films in best film, best visual solution and jury award categories.
Another highlight of the festival was the Creative Writing and Digital Experiments Competition, which invited international and regional participants to submit works that explored the theme of land while experimenting with digital prose and composition. The festival also featured practical workshops on filmmaking, creative writing, and digital art, which were led by experts in their fields.
“The land beneath our feet has always served as a source of livelihood, inspiration, and identity for the people of Central Asia. The Nomad Festival 2023 offers us a unique opportunity to come together and appreciate the profound connections between the land, culture, and creativity that have shaped this region,” said Dr Barkat Fazal, Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network in Kyrgyzstan, during the opening of the Nomad 2023 Film Festival.
Recognising the history, one of the important exhibitions by UCA’s Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit installed at the UCA Naryn Campus was “Mountains of Sorrow” featuring Urkun (forced migration of Kyrgyz people to China) demonstrating the significance of land for nomads.
The fashion shows were the apex of the festival exhibiting traditional and contemporary designs inspired by land. This AGRO Musical Fashion Performance, featured the collection of a renowned fashion designer, Gulmira Akmatova, inspired by Chingiz Aitmatov’s novel “White Ship,” exploring the delicate relationship between humanity and nature.Nomad 2023 | Highlights
Crafted with care, the collection showcases Kyrgyz Merino wool, hand-spun and hand-woven by local women, adorned with animal and insect-themed headpieces. The event featured live music by Nurlanbek Nyshanov and Gulbara Baygashkaeva, performing Kyrgyz folklore, immersing the audience in the rich cultural sounds of Kyrgyzstan.
The awards night showcased the culmination of talent and creativity converged on a single stage. As the evening unfolded, the spotlight shone brightly on the winning artists, who not only received well-deserved awards but also monetary prizes that symbolized recognition of their exceptional contributions to the world of art. However, the awards night was not just about honoring talent; it was a celebration of culture and creativity in its purest form. The event organised at the awards night by UCA’s Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit featured a captivating exhibition titled 'Boz' by Yntymak Abdyldaev and 'Eelyy' by Mirrahim Toktogulov, which delved deep into the essence of nomadic culture through the mediums of fashion design, folk art, and art installations. This contemporary exhibition was a mesmerizing journey into the philosophy of the color gray and the sacred connection between people and places. It showcased a diverse range of artistic expressions, including stunning fashion shows, captivating artworks, evocative photography, and soul-stirring live music by Kyrgyz Kairyk Musical Ensemble, making it a night to remember for all who attended.
Nomad 2023 facilitated a cultural exchange between visitors and the local community, allowing international guests to immerse themselves in the nomadic way of life. This interaction not only empowered mountain communities but also promoted tourism, boosting the local economy and allowing local artisans to generate income and gain recognition. Nomad 2023 served as a catalyst for sustainable development and promoted awareness around environmental conservation in mountain regions. It was a celebration of cultural diversity and unity, where the participants forged connections that transcended borders and languages barriers through their creative expressions.
Nomad 2023 – A Living Land festival was a resounding success, shining a spotlight on the invaluable contributions of mountain communities and their sustainable practices. It fostered a sense of global solidarity and reminded attendees of the beauty that emerges when diverse backgrounds come together. Nomad 2023 was a reminder that by embracing our ancestral wisdom and harmonizing with nature, we can create a better and stronger future for all.
Winners of the International Film Festival
- Best Film Award (500 USD): Shades of Melancholy, Director Karash Zhanyshov
- Best Visual Solution (300 USD): Shades of Melancholy, Director of Photography Bekzat Turatbek uulu
- Special Jury Prize (200 USD): Earth, Dirrectors Aliman Toktogulova and Umarjon Jumaev
- Best Film Award (500 USD): Bauxite, Director Thamara Pereira
- Best Visual Solution (300 USD): Suitcase, Director of Photography Hamed Baghaeian
- Special Jury Prize (200 USD): Suitcase, Directors Saman Hosseinpuor and Ako Zandkarimi
Winners of the Digital Experiment and Creative Writing Competition
- Most Outstanding Creative Work (USD 500): Seaweed by Michiel Turner
- Most Promising Artist (USD 300): Deora by Alexandra Bell
- Most Promising Artist in Central Asia (USD 300): Currents of the Memory by Darika Urgazieva
- Jury award for Best Work which most skillfully addressed the competition theme (USD 200): Ubuntu by Edu Sanchez Lopez