Turkmenistan Culture Days
Turkmenistan Artists’ Revival Meets Washington
By Lauren Monsen; Staff Writer; 30 November 2011
Washington — As Turkmenistan marks the 20th anniversary of its independence, Washington-based cultural institutions are showcasing the country’s heritage through a three-day program November 28–30 known as “Turkmenistan Culture Days.”
The event began with a symposium at the U.S. Library of Congress on Turkmenistan’s literary and performing arts. A lively performance by three Turkmen musicians (two of whom doubled as vocalists) preceded the symposium’s panelists, who had just arrived from Turkmenistan. One musician played a ghidjak, a traditional stringed instrument that uses a bow similar to a violin’s, while the other two played the dutar, a two-stringed lute.
In his remarks, Librarian of Congress James Billington said the library has the most significant holdings of Turkmen cultural materials in North America. “We also have a major online project called the World Digital Library,” he said, “… and we would welcome the participation of Turkmenistan.”
Meret Orasov, Turkmenistan’s ambassador to the United States, said that cultural dialogue between nations forms understanding and respect. “Although this event is being held for the first time, we hope it will become a tradition,” he said.
The symposium featured poet Amangozel Shaguliyeva and author Tachmammat Jurdekov. Both spoke in the Turkmen language, while an interpreter rendered their remarks into English. Shaguliyeva explained that “poets and writers are receiving special attention under the current government,” which is promoting a revival of Turkmenistan’s artistic traditions to help the country forge a strong sense of national identity.
Shaguliyeva read one of her poems and talked about her approach to her art. “As a poet, I write about everyday life, love, daily routine, but it’s also important to share what’s happening in my country,” she said. “For me as a writer, to be able to publish my book and share it with the rest of the world, there’s no richer experience. This sort of thing wasn’t possible before Turkmenistan’s independence, but now, Turkmenistan is open to the rest of the world.”
Jurdekov, author of several books and formerly a magazine editor, cited Americans’ love of reading, which he said is shared by his compatriots. “There are so many legends and stories about the role of literature in the life of the Turkmen people,” he said. “One story involves a family that has a camel, which they rely on for sustenance, for its milk. But when they come across a book of poetry, they exchange the camel for the book.”
Theater and film director Annageldi Garajayev also spoke, delivering remarks in the Turkmen language that were interpreted into English. He said that Turkmenistan’s policy of arts revival is resulting in new facilities for theater and is “creating opportunities.” He cited new arts festivals, two new concert and cinema series, an opera revival, a successful Turkmen chamber orchestra and two new television channels devoted to culture.
He said attention to children’s cultural exposure is not overlooked. “There are dance groups, folklore groups and arts-based competitions and activities for children,” he said.
Choreographer Yelena Dormidontova, whose remarks in the Turkmen language were interpreted into English, reminded the audience that Turkmen culture “goes back to ancient times, and regional dance has evolved” over the years. She directs a troupe of dancers, who were present and wore richly embroidered gowns in vibrant shades of red, cobalt blue and purple, along with glittering gold caps.
“I’m not going to say a lot, because dance and body language speak volumes,” said Dormidontova, urging audience members to attend a later performance.
The library’s symposium concluded with a film about the Turkmen poet and musician Shukur Bakhshi. On subsequent days, Meridian International Center hosted an exhibition of Turkmen art, while master classes in Turkmen music were held at nearby universities.
Turkmenistan’s writers look forward to hosting a U.S. cultural program in Turkmenistan next year, with American writers and artists, Jurdekov said.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)