Лязги – самый солнечный танец на Земле

Если вы оказались в Хорезме, вы обязательно должны увидеть Лязги. Лязги – это танец, обладающий позитивным  жизнеутверждающим фактором a joie de vivre, который пробуждает чувство радости и наслаждения жизнью.

Существует мнение, что древнее слово «лязги» означает «трястись», что описывает энергичные движения тела в такт с бъющими через край музыкальными ритмами, сопровождающимися выразительной лицевой мимикой.

12 декабря 2019 года согласно решению 14ой сессии Межправительственного комитета по охране нематериального культурного наследия ЮНЕСКО в Боготе (Колумбия), хорезмский танец «Лязги» был внесен в репрезентативный список нематериального культурного наследия человечества.

Очень люблю этот танец за зажигательный темперамент, яркие краски, солнечность и пульсирующую динамику движений! Недаром гласит старинная хорезмская легенда, что Лязги вдохнул жизнь и энергию в первого человека на Земле! Люблю также Ичан-Калу – внутреннюю крепость города Хивы, где в 2019 году проходил чудесный фестиваль “Магия Танца”. А вот и моя история об этом танце, переведённая мною на русский язык. Русская версия была опубликована на аналитической платформе Центральной Азии CAA-network и платформе Информационно-аналитического Центра МГУ (Московского государственного университета) – ИАЦ МГУ. Откройте эти гиперлинки, если хотите прочитать полную версию статьи. Приятного чтения!

Группа танцовщиц фестиваля “Магия Танца”, Хива, Ичан-Кала, сентябрь 2019
Стены Ичан-Калы, завораживающие духом древности
Ичан-Кала, сентябрь 2019 года
Ичан-Кала и танцоры
Юная хорезмийка с кастаньетами
А вот и я!

Khorezm Lazgi: The Sunniest Dance on Earth

Lazgi is a must-see of Khorezm. Lazgi is the dance with a feel-good factor, making you feel a joie de vivre or zest for life. There is an opinion that the meaning of the ancient word ‘lazgi’ is ‘tremble,’ which describes a very energetic movement of the body along with the vibrant musical rhythms and expressive facial mimics.

On 12th December 2019, during the 14th session of The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Bogota (Colombia) the Khorezm dance Lazgi was inscribed onto the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (ICHH).

The history of Lazgi is wrapped in a shroud of legends and myths, which makes it truly magical and mysterious. If you want to know more about the Khorezm Lazgi, check out my article published on Voices on Central Asia platform. The platform is a collaboration between the Central Asia Program (CAP) and the Central Asian Analytical Network (CAAN), both part of The George Washington University‘s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES).  https://voicesoncentralasia.org/khorezm-lazgi-the-sunniest-dance-on-earth/?fbclid=IwAR1PDdmLsDlZxrFudO5i7oVgPoE6UyJqUSDZI_naB5FAS-AXSZge-oobsRI

If you want to see how the Khorezmians dance today, check my you tube channel.

Dilorom Mamedova, Khorezmian dancer, oil, 2019, 100 X 70

Magic of Dance Festival: Khiva, Ichan Kala, September 2019

In September 2019, I was invited to the famous Raqs Sehri (Magic of Dance) Festival that took place in Khiva’s Itchan Kala. Itchan Kala is an inner old town of Khiva surrounded by the ancient thick walls (some of the walls reach 10 metres in height). It is a UNESCO-protected site, which in the past used to be the place for restoration for the caravans preparing to cross the desert to Iran. The place has a number of architectural monuments of outstanding beauty and historical significance.

The Festival took place in the Open Summer Theatre in Itchan Kala, which added a magic touch to the whole event. It was an unforgettable event which gave me a unique chance to experience the excitement of the Festival, meet incredible people – Festival’s organisers, dancers from many countries, choreographers, researchers, journalists and, mainly, enjoy the warm hospitality of the Khorezmians, the lovely Uzbek food and abundance of bright colours in the sunshine. I must say, the Khorezminas are very special people with their own language and culture. They are also multitalented people and dancing is in their blood! If you want to see some of the dances, check out my you tube channel.

My blog about Tamara Khanum, an Uzbek dancer, choreographer and outstanding performer

My biggest achievement in 2019 in terms of writing was publishing my new blog about Tamara Khanum on BBC Uzbek online platform on the 9th October 2019.  It was a worthwhile endeavour to spend hours and hours searching for new facts and reading  snippets of information, I could find in the British Library and in the archives of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).  I am immensely thankful to the EFDSS staff for granting their support and assistance in finding the right resources and even scanning them for me!  Without their support this article would never come to its current shape.

At the end of my research, I finally put the puzzle together, bringing to light this story  about participation of the outstanding Tamara-Khanum and accompanying her musicians in the First International Folk Dance Festival, that took place in London in 1935. Tamara Khanum arrived to London with Usto Olim Komilov (a famous musician, choreographer, cultural activist and mentor) and musicians, Tokhtasyn Jalilov and Abdukodir Ismoilov, who introduced the Uzbek culture to the British public for the first time in 1935.

Initially, the story was written in English. The BBC Uzbek journalist, Ibrat Jumaboyev read the original and liked it so much that he proposed to translate it into Uzbek language and publish on BBC Uzbek News online platform for the Uzbek-speaking readers. Needless to say, I was very pleased when I saw my article published on BBC News Uzbek! Some time later, the Russian and English versions were published (with some modifications) on Voices on Central Asia and Central Asian Analytical Network, CAAN.

I am pleased to share the links for all three versions here:

UZBEK: Ўзбекистон ва Британия: 1935 йил Лондонда Тамарахоним қандай кутиб олинган ёхуд Усто Олим салласи сири (BBC News Uzbek, 9/10/2019)

ENGLISH: How they met Tamara Khanum in London and the secret of Usto Olim Komilov’s turban (Voices on Central Asia, 22/10/2019)

RUSSIAN: Как встречали Тамару Ханум в Лондоне и секрет чалмы Усто Олима Комилова (CAAN, Central Asian Analytical Network, 22/10/2019)

Happy reading!

United by tea_Peter Kennedy Collection, London 1935

Tamara Khanum photo, London News, July 1935



Uzbek Culture Days in Vienna

In March I attended Uzbek Culture Days in Vienna. Those three days that I spent in a beautiful elegant capital of Austria, were filled with excitement of meeting new people and taking part in events representing the Uzbek culture. The festival of the Uzbek Culture was organised by ‘KultEurasia’, an association focussing its activities on promoting cultural dialogue between Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus.  I am particularly thankful to the KultEurasia’s founder, Daniela Lieberwirth for her hospitality and generosity. I tried to encapsulate all my impressions  about the Uzbek Culture Days in this blog, which was published in Russian on the CAAN (Central Asia Analytical Network) platform, fully supported by Central Asia Programme of George Washington University. Following publication of the original version in Russian, the blog has been translated in Uzbek language on the Uzanalytics site. Both versions have lots of images which will, hopefully, provide you with some insights into this beautiful festival.

in cafe

turkish and uzbek music1

tour in vienna

Uzbek Dance Art: Past and Present – In the Wake of Tashkent Encounters


Dilorom Madraximova – a well-known professional dancer of the Uzbek dance. Photo credit: Dilorom Madraximova

Last October, I took an opportunity of traveling to Uzbekistan to see my cousin’s family living in Tashkent and at the same time explore this country’s cultural and historical heritage. I saw Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara.  There is not enough words to describe the beauty and richness of the historical and cultural sites of these cities, the buzz and  diversity of the Uzbek bazaars full of fascinating goods, foodstuffs and fragrant spices. But one of my interests was to explore the past and the present of the Uzbek dance and meet the people who are taking great care of preserving  this unique art.   I was lucky to be introduced to a legendary person who has played an outstanding role in developing the Uzbek national dance, and the people who are currently devoting their time, energy and passion to further development and promotion of the Uzbek dance.

The Voices of Central Asia, an online platform of Central Asia Programme supported by George Washington University (USA), published an English version of my blog Uzbek Dance Art: Past and Present – In the Wake of Tashkent Encounters. This story is a result of my long-standing fascination with the Uzbek dance. It describes my encounters with some  beautiful people who generously opened up to me and shared their stories, knowledge and, most importantly, their love to their profession.

Please read an English version here. The original full version (in Russian) titled ‘‘Узбекское танцевальное искусство в прошлом и настоящем: по следам ташкентских встреч’ is published on the online platform of Central Asia Analytical Network (CAAN) here.  I hope you find both versions interesting and informative!

7 the best
Dilorom Madraximova Photo credit: Dilorom Madraximova

Photo credit: Dilorom Madraximova



Saule Suleimenova: A Journey to Find True Kazakhness

I am very pleased to share my recent blog dedicated to one of my favourite contemporary Kazakhstani artists Saule Suleimenova. I briefly met Saule in London during the exhibition ‘Focus Kazakhstan: Post-nomadic Mind’ which was held at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in October 2018. Saule charmed me with her warm personality and her unique vision of contemporary art.

The CAAN, Central Asian Analytical Network supported by the Central Asia Programme of George Washington University, has kindly published my blog on their online platform. Please read the original version of the blog in the English language.

Мне очень приятно поделиться моим недавним блогом, посвященным одной из моих любимых современных художниц Казахстана Сауле Сулейменовой. Я познакомилась с Сауле в Лондоне во время выставки “Фокус Казахстан: Сознание Пост-кочевника”, которая проводилась в октябре 2018 года в здании бывшей гидроэлектростанции, называемой  Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Сауле очаровала меня своей теплотой и своим уникальным видением современного искусства.

CAAN (Central Asian Analytical Network) или Центрально-азиатское аналитическое объединение при поддержке Программы Центральной Азии Университета Джорджа Вашингтона любезно опубликовало мой блог на их онлайновой платформе. Вы можете прочитать русскоязычную версию блога, переведенную на русский язык при поддержке CAAN. Название блога – “Сауле Сулейменова: Путь в поисках истинной казахскости”.

“Focus Kazakhstan: Post-nomadic Mind” at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Installation view of Saule Suleimenova’s “Kelyn” (2015). Photo by Thierry Bal: https://www.yatzer.com/focus-kazakhstan-post-nomadic-mind/slideshow/3

Как я открыла для себя художественный мир Кристиан Кубрик

Мое первое знакомство с художницей Кристиан Кубрик, ее творчеством и историей  жизни произошло чисто случайно, когда во время одной из наших излюбленных прогулок на природе мы нечаянно забрели на художественную ярмарку в местечке Чайлдвикбури (Childwickbury). Чайлдвикбури – это красивое живописное место в графстве Хартфордшир, расположенное в часе езды от Лондона. Во-первых, ярмарка привлекла расставленными повсюду причудливыми фигурами, одетыми в театральные костюмы и маски.

elegant chuchelo adjustedЧучуло adjusted 1Huhelo adjustedРезчик по дереву adjusted

Во-вторых, меня поразило, что многочисленные  художники и мастера ремесел не просто выставляли свои работы, но и одновременно продолжали творить, рисовать, печатать, лепить, чеканить прямо на глазах у любопытствующей публики, периодически прерывая свою работу диалогами с посетителями выставки.

Выставка проходила в помещении бывших конюшен огромного поместья Чайлдвикбури, владелицей которого и по сей день является художница Кристиан Кубрик. Работы Кристиан находились в центральной части всего выставочного пространства, где она, так же как и остальные художники, продолжала творить за своим холстом, невзирая на окружающих. Она выделялась необычным одеянием, которое выдавало ее неординарную художественную натуру.

Кубрик рисующая со спины

kubrik talkingКартины Кубрик поразили меня своим особенным стилем, который трудно передать словами: ее картины надо смотреть часами, смакуя каждую деталь, так как каждая деталь имеет смысловой посыл и заставляет нас увидеть поэзию и очарование в обычных растениях, цветах, домашней утвари и окружающей среде. Ее картины – это результат созерцания и философского осмысления зарождения жизни, роста, расцвета и неизбежного угасания и увядания, которое она демонстрирует через образы семян, растений и цветов.

Согласно Марине Вейци, художественному критику газеты «the London Sunday Times»,  стиль Кристиан сформировался под влиянием Пьера Боннара (Pierre Bonnard) (1867 —1947) и Эдуара Вюйара (Édouard Vuillard) (1868 – 1940)[1] – представителей французского пост-импрессионизма, членов известной группы художников-авангардистов «Наби» (Les Nabis).  В своем вступлении Марина отмечает, что творческий почерк Кристиан близок почерку Эдуара Вюйара и Пьера Боннара в плане их интереса к декоративному изображению предметов внутреннего интерьера, сада и окружающего ландшафта. Так же как и Пьер Боннар, Кристиан предпочитает передавать поэтическую идиллию мира через предметы и сценки обычной повседневной жизни из ее собственного окружения. Сочетание плоского эффекта и своебразной цветовой гаммы (от нежных, как бы размытых, тонов до сочных, насыщенных энергией красок) – отличительная черта этих художников.

Кубрик любит рисовать цветы и экзотические растения из ее собственной оранжереи, располагая их на столах и подоконниках в окружении других предметов, дополняя изображение ландшафтным видом за окном. Для нее важно показать соотношение внутреннего интерьера и внешнего мира. Причем так же как и Боннар и Вюйар, Кристиан не боится нарушить каноны пространственной композиции, чтобы выразить энергетику формы и цвета на первом плане. Взаимоотношение внутреннего и внешнего планов отражает общий интерес Кристиан Кубрик, Вюйара и Боннара к театру и упорядоченной композиции деталей интерьера и декораций. Согласно критику,  склонность Кристиан к четкой линейной композиции временами напоминает стиль Матисса и Сезанна.[2]

autumn-still-life-with-summer-drawings_1024x1024 – художник -Кристиан Кубрик

Итак, насладившись лицезрением работ Кубрик и ее необычной ярмарки, я задалась вопросом: а кто она и почему это она организует эти необычные выставки?

История любви Кристиан и Стэнли Кубрик

Очень скоро я выяснила, что художница Кубрик ( в девичестве Кристиан Харлан) – вдова легендарного американского кинорежиссера и сценариста, одного из самых влиятельных фигур в истории мирового кинематографа  Стэнли Кубрика (1928 – 1999).[3]  Стэнли и Кристиан познакомились в 1957 году во время киносъемок фильма «Тропы славы» (Paths of Glory ), куда ее и пригласил Стэнли сняться в небольшой роли. После окончания съемок они поженились. Для обоих это был уже не первый брак: для Стэнли это был третий брак, а у Кристиан росла дочь от первого брака. Однако несмотря на прошлые неудачи в семейной жизни, их союз оказался очень прочным, и они прожили вместе 41 год  до последнего дня Стэнли Кубрика. Соединив свою жизнь со Стэнли, Кристиан решила заняться живописью,оставив навсегда карьеру певицы, танцовщицы и актрисы. Во время их пребывания в Нью-Йорке, Кристиан закончила там художественную школу и посвятила всю свою жизнь искусству.  Из совместная жизнь и работа протекала между Америкой и Англией, но в конце концов по ряду причин Стэнли решил окончательно обосноваться в Англии недалеко от киностудии Эльстри (Elstree Studios), где, кстати, главным образом снимался фильм о Гарри Поттере.

Childwickbury_Manor adjustedthe manor фвогыеув

В 1978 году, поменяв несколько резиденций в Англии, Кубрики купили огромное поместье Чайлдвикбури в Хертфордшире, богатая история которого начинается главным образом с 18-ого столетия. В числе бывших именитых владельцев поместья был и владелец  самой большой фермы в Англии для разведения и подготовки лошадей для скачек, чем и обьясняется наличие огромных конюшен на территории поместья. Вот эти-то бывшие конюшни и были переоборудованы первоначально как рабочая киносъемочная площадка и «кино-фабрика» для Стэнли Кубрика, а позднее, после его смерти в 1999 году, Кристиан решила использовать эту площадку для ежегодных ярмарок для художников  и других мастеров декоративных ремесел. Первая ярмарка состоялась в 2003 году и воодушевшись успехом, Кристиан превратила эту идею в ежегодное событие, очень популярное в графстве Хертфордшир.

Детство, юность и зрелые годы

Творения Кристиан, отражающие тонкость её восприятия и любовь к созерцанию – яркий пример того, как ранние впечатления детства и юности накладывают отпечаток на наши эмоции и видение мира в течение всей последующей жизни. Кристиан Кубрик все еще видит мир через призму своих детских впечатлений: отсюда часто используемые ею образы причудливых фигур или чучел, одетых в театрализованные костюмы и маски, фигурки кукольного театра, театральные декорации и своеобразная цветовая палитра в сочетании с четко очерченной композицией. Перефразируя известное выражение «театр начинается с вешалки», можно сказать, что ярмарка Кристиан Кубрик начинается с необычных фигур, или просто чучел.

Страсть к театру была предопределена для маленькой Кристиан, которая родилась в небольшом городке в Германии в семье музыкантов, актеров и драматургов. 39 членов ее семьи и родных были связаны с театром или музыкой так или иначе. С раннего детства она росла в атмосфере театра, наблюдая за репетициями своих родителей и работой декораторов сцены. Отсюда ее стремление создавать композиции из предметов окружающего быта. Когда началась война, Кристиан в возрасте 9 лет была эвакуирована вместе с ее братом и семьей няни на кирпичный завод, где она общалась с семьями шахтеров и их детьми. Даже здесь она продолжала заниматься своим любимым занятием: рисовать, лепить фигурки из глины, делать кукольные постановки для детей и  мастерить чучело-образные фигуры из всяческих обломков и прочих материалов.

В конце войны Кристиан поступила в школу-интернат, где она продолжала заниматься театральными постановками и дизайном декораций для школьных спектаклей. В силу финансовых проблем, в 16 лет Кристиан вынуждена была начать зарабатывать на жизнь, используя свои способности  в балете, театре, и музыке. Благодаря ее роли на телевидении,  она была замечена Стэнли, который и пригласил ее на роль в своем фильме «Тропы славы». Кстати, стоит отметить, что многие картины Кристиан Стэнли использовал в своем фильме «Eyes Wide Shut/С широко закрытыми глазами» в качестве декора, окружающего Тома Круза и Николь Кидман.

Kidman and Cruz in Eyes wide shut with paintings

Nicole Kindman and Christinae painting

Концепция «Открытых Мастерских» 

Ярмарка Кристиан организована по принципу «Открытых Мастерских», дающих возможность всем заинтересованным сторонам (художникам и гостям выставки) для открытого диалога, интерактивного общения и непосредственного наблюдения за работой художника. Такой формат поощряет взаимный обмен информацией и привлекает больше интереса. Неформальная атмосфера создает более благоприятные условия для активной продажи работ, что так важно для художников и мастеров ремесел. Как сказала мне одна из художниц, это очень удобно, так как художники выплачивают лишь определенные комиссионные в зависимости от объема продаж.

Кристиан создает выставочное пространство для более чем 60 художников под легкими тентами на открытой площадке и в стенах бывших конюшен. Здесь можно увидеть не только рисующих художников, но также и чеканщиков, ювелиров, скульпторов, гончаров, резчиков по дереву, иллюстраторов, художников-граверов, стеклодувов и даже дизайнеров вычурных шляп.



Сама Кристиан дает уроки печатной графики и художественного мастерства (включая цветовую палитру акварельными и масляными красками, композицию и создание индивидуального стиля). Курсы Кристиан,  так же как и ее картины и репродукции, пользуются большим успехом. Отсутствие галереи собственных работ Кристиан обьясняется быстрой раскупаемостью ее картин по всему миру.

Апофеозом концепции сотрудничества художников и зрителей является популярная среди посетителей ярмарки коллективная работа по созданию большого красочного полотна с заранее подготовленным схематичным  наброском. Каждый желающий, независимо от возраста и способностей, можно внести свой вклад (маленький или большой) в раскраску полотна. Могу сказать, что и я попробовала себя в роли художницы: ощущение замечательное! В конце ярмарки профессиональные художники слегка подправляют готовый результат, который заканчивается профессионально-сделанной качественной  репродукцией коллективного полотна, которое, кстати, желающие могут купить позже.

Рисующая группа.jpg

Kubrik and Rosa

Почему я об этом всем пишу? Меня прежде всего восхитила личность основательницы этой известной ярмарки, которая несмотря на свой представительный возраст, продолжает творить, рисовать и оставаться очень востребованной в чрезвычайно конкурентном мире искусства! И в то же время она заражает взрослых и детей магией искусства во всех ее формах и проявлениях в доступной и доброжелательной атмосфере, где выигрывают все: художники, сама Кристиан и посетители ее ярмарок!

[1] Christiane Kubrick Paintings 1990, p.10, Warner Books.

[2] Christiane Kubrick Paintings 1990, p.10, Warner Books.

[3] Стэнли Кубрик получил известность и признание благодаря своим фильмам Лолита (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964), Космическая одиссея 2001 года/ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) и его последнему фильму Eyes Wide Shut/С широко закрытыми глазами (1999) с участием Тома Круза и Николь Кидман.

ZITABL & AURA: a unique creative tandem of contemporary art of Kazakhstan

This blog is about a very unusual family of a modern Kazakh artist, writer and journalist, Zitta Sultanbayeva, who is the soul and inspiration behind the creative works by ZITABL & AURA



Zitta Sultanbayeva

Zitta Sultanbayeva is an artist, poet, journalist and art critic; a very talented person who has the ability to process and respond to life’s events in her own philosophical and imaginative way. I came across Zitta’s work via Facebook.  Zitta’s posts caught my attention with her insightful excurses into Kazakhstan’s art and culture.

She cherishes Kazakhstan’s cultural past and reminds us about its classical beauty by bringing out some rare old photographs, archival treasures, and bio-sketches of giants whose work established a golden cultural heritage fund of the Nation.  She actively seeks new forms and shapes to express her individual interpretation and responses to reality, frequently accompanied by her poetic description.

Zitta’s insatiable interest in art and creative writing began during her happy carefree childhood in Alma-Ata (now Almaty), the cultural hub of Kazakhstan. Since her early years, she immersed herself in the world of books and art.  She grew up in a very artistic family and subsequently participated in a social circle which included local famous artists and sculptors.  These circumstances had a profound effect on Zitta’s choices and interests in life.  With time, she expanded her knowledge of poetry, literature and arts and found greater levels of determination and focus on achieving her goals. Zitta’s passion for arts and writing enabled her to establish her own creative style which with the passage of time became more mature and sophisticated.



In her recent book, Art Atmosphere of Alma-Ata, published in 2016, Zitta explains the years when she received her first lessons in ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ colours and the art of composition from her aunt-cousin, a brilliant artist and actress, Gulfayrus Ismailova.  Quite clearly, Zitta cherishes the time she spent with Gulfayrus, in essence, the strong foundation for Zitta’s personal development and creative vision. There is the whole section of her book dedicated to Gulfayrus Ismailova.

After graduation from the State Art College in Almaty, Zitta embarked on a newly-founded training course, at the Script Department of the Kazakh-Film studio.  It was her dream to continue her studies at VGIK, a famous All-Union State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.   At the Kazakh-Film Studio, she followed a course on film studies and film critic, together with a well-known screen-writer Margarita Solovyova and Malik Yakshimbetov, Film Director together with a renowned Lecturer on the History of Art, Pavel Salzman.  In the mid-1980s, Zitta enrolled at the Almaty Institute of Drama and Art to study Manufacturing Graphics.   During her Studies, she got influenced by intellectual ideas of Nazipa Yezhenova, the History of Arts Lecturer, who invited Zitta to join a group led by a prominent architect and artist, Rustam Khalfin. Here she met Alexander Brener, a controversial writer and artist. All these interactions were to be a significant influence on the formation of Zitta’s aesthetic preferences, during her later career.

Glasnost’’ and ‘Perestroika’ of the 1980s shook the Society’s stagnated routines and triggered a re-evaluation of old values and knowledge and then, new challenges and hopes.  The art scene of Almaty, as explained in Zitta’s book, went through a substantial change in the desperate pursuit of catching up with the new wave of contemporary art. Influenced by new trends and encouraged by visiting art experts and contemporary artists from overseas, local artists started experimenting with new forms of visual expression trying to ‘marry’ traditional forms with technical forms, photo, and video-art. This new trend resulted in a whole new vocabulary, not only in the technical field of Art but also in its conceptual and visionary perspective.


In 1990, Zitta met her husband, a freelance artist, photographer and musician Ablikim Akmullaev. In 2000, their marriage became a contemporary art duo, called ZITABL: ‘ZIT’ corresponds with Zitta’s name whereas ‘ABL’ corresponds with Ablikim’s name. ZITABL has developed its own distinctive style and a conceptual framework. In the course of 18 years, ZITABL has built a significant portfolio of artwork, installations and exhibitions, including: Asian Runway (2000), Miss Asia (2002), Gods and Marionettes (2003), Egg-headed on the Time Belt – From the Collective Past to the Individual Present (2008), and Akhyr Zaman (2014/2015). Both husband and wife have exhibited their work in a number of leading art galleries and exhibitions in the post-soviet space and abroad and won a number of awards in international contemporary art contests.

Installation Miss Asia (2002) was one of the first forms of visual protest against the potential deployment of American military bases in Kazakhstan.


A combination of a video-installation with the powerful verses by Zitta had been used to address the issue of a national dignity and pride. It is built on contrasting the images of mountains, tall green fir-trees, blue skies, and bright flowers on the one hand, and a man in a military uniform pushing a young Asian woman submissively sitting in a wheelchair and looking at us with a sad face, on the other hand.

A powerful poetic text cautions about a danger of losing Miss Asia’s power, soul, desire, fire, dignity and pride for the sake of short-term benefits. It is a warning against selling land to military bases which might cause irreparable losses and falling of a country into the ‘abyss of non-existence’.

The Exhibition Egg-headed on the Time Belt – From the Collective Past to the Individual Present (2008) conveys a strong message about breaking with the collective past, when the virtue of individual style and unconventional and non-conformist views were suppressed for the sake of ideological uniformity, manifested in a hypothetical image of Homo Sovieticus.


This was the time when the newly independent Republics were making their own way and re-evaluating their history to identify national heroes from the past and re-building their own national identity which had been previously forgotten, ground through the heavy ideological machinery of the Soviet period. Zitta points to the black-and-white photos from her family albums to convey the message about ‘mass production’ of egg-headed people that lost their real face, in other words, their individuality. Soviet ideology skilfully channelled via media,  schools, universities, and the workplace, put pressure on everyone to blend in to satisfy preconceptions and moral norms which in effect, suppressed their deeply hidden thoughts, beliefs, and wishes.

A similar message is conveyed by the pumpkin-headed images in the photo collage which tells us about a self-defeating frustrating relationship between individual and collective, conformism and non-conformism, stereotypical and non-conventional. 

The portrayal of the cage as a symbol of non-freedom is used in the installation ‘Simply in the Bird’s Cage’.   The cage reminds the viewer of the saying ‘as a bird in a cage’. Bird in a cage is an obvious clash with the natural order of life with birds flying free in nature. ZITABL uses the visual language of the installation to say that any human being – be it a child or an adult- can only blossom into a happy individual and fully enjoy life when they have the freedom and opportunities to do so.



The installation ‘Prisoner’ continues the ZITABL’s dialogue about the importance of personal freedom in making your own choices and expressing one’s views with no fear and prejudice. The face in the installation ‘Prisoner’ belongs to Ablikim – Zitta’s husband, friend and a soulmate – who brings his passion for music, photography and art into all ZITABL’s creations. Interestingly, Ablikim found an inspiration for this creation in a well-known Pushkin’s poem ‘Prisoner’, a story about a young eagle confined in a dark cage yearning for freedom to fly away with his friend.


Ablikim was born in Alma-Ata into a musical Uyghur family. He has a wide talent of being able to play several instruments, such as Shaman’s drum, Uyghur dap, African drums, Irish and Tai pipe, Indian flute, and many other unconventional for a music scene of Kazakhstan instruments. In the period of 1987-1992, he was an active member of a controversial underground art group called «Green Triangle’, known in Alma-Ata for its devotion to the ideas of a hippie movement and a heavy rock music.

Ablikim is a key drum player in his group called Bugarabu, which specialises in a very exotic music, a mix of folk music of diverse cultural origins with some spiritual overtones and vibrant rhythms which makes their music sound really shamanic and enchanting.


The musical band Bugarabu is a result of Ablikim’s long-standing passion for drums, which he learned from his father. Since childhood, Ablikim fell madly in love with rock-music with the music of Pink Floyd having a special place. This passion towards Pink Floyd went to such an extreme point in his teenage years that in the signature place of his first Passport, he entered ‘Pink Floyd’, for which he was severely punished at that time.


Ablikim demonstrates his original interpretation of the ‘Wall’ by Pink Floyd, where the bricks made of despair, betrayal and hate have been replaced by the bricks symbolising Love. This installation echoes Ablikim’s devotion to the Sufi vision and Sufi’s interpretation of the world.

The theme of Pink Floyd shows up in ZITABL new Exhibition currently taking place in the Central Exhibition Gallery of the Kasteyev State Museum of Arts in Almaty. This Exhibition is a result of ZITABL’s 18 years of experience lived through art, photography, video and music. The Exhibition is called ‘From Hate to Love’ and reflects the art duo’s conceptual vision of the world which should move away from hate to love, from war to peace and eventually to the evolution of public consciousness. ZITABL has made this event very special by combining the art show with music and video performances, poetry declamations and talks, discussions and debates.


The name of the art duo has a small addition this time – ZITABL & AURA – to announce to the world that their young daughter, Aurelia, has joined the family’s creative union.  This young lady, Aurelia has surprisingly developed her own individual style and her own vision of herself and the world around her. Her photo collage called ‘Truth is in the mirrors’ has become one of the key works of the art duo ZITABL.   The collage reflects unfairness and social inequality which affects many children in the globe and not just the ones who live in the Country of the Great Steppe.

Aurelia: Truth is in the mirrors


At the show, ZITABL shows their old and new creations in furtherance of their ongoing comprehension of the world and the role of ordinary individuals on the time belt of the Universe. Zitta presents her new carnival series of works War between Fennel & Cotton-Wool where Love eventually takes over Hate. These series are Zitta’s reaction to the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation started in 2014.


Briefly, this is an allegorical story about the confrontation between the two sides where the image of Cotton-Wool (‘vata’ in Russian) is associated with ‘vatniki’ – a type of people who are still cherishing the socialistic past, strong Russia and the status quo. The image of Fennel (‘ukrop’ in Russian) is associated with pro-Western Ukrainians who want to change the status quo and strive for the freedom to follow their own path.

By using metaphoric language and childlike images, Zitta wishes to turn war into peace and love. Similarly, Zitta’s Red & White series continues the theme of peace and love, as the most powerful driving force of the globe. Her work ‘Reconciliation’ is a call to accept our history containing both dramatic and dignified events as the past and hence move forward!



15The purpose of the Exhibition is also to recognise the 50th Anniversary of Paris events of 1968, when millions of students united in their protest against old establishments and rules, Vietnam War and racial discrimination, suffocating bureaucracy of state structures and a class-oriented society driven by money and consumerism.  The Exhibitors have replicated the banners of the Paris protests with famous slogans of that turbulent time: ‘Structures are for People!’, ‘People are not for Structures!’, ‘It is prohibited to prohibit!’, ‘Forget everything you were taught before! Learn to dream!’, ‘Be a realist – demand impossible!’ It was a social revolution influenced by the neo-Marxian ideas which had brought the previously dominating systems and a monotonous routine of life to a complete stop. Following quite soon after the Great War from 1939-1945, the then new generation were averse to following the steps of their parents and grandparents. They wanted to live their lives according to new values and principles and not the old.


My question is how this new Exhibition of ZITABL & AURA can be related to our current reality? I think the value and purpose of events like that are to make everyone pause, reflect and think for a moment: what is the purpose of my life? What is my place in this society? How am I connected to my family, my country and the Universe? What really matters in life? Do I want to follow in the steps of my parents or other people who are supposed to lead the so-called ‘good life’? Or, do I want to try something different, be bold and brave and brake the old canons and the worn out stereotypes? I suppose everyone has to find his/her own answers and destinations. All I really want to say: it is great for any society to have artists like Zitta and Ablikim, who are not worried being part of the rat’s race. They make us take a pause and reflect on simple values of life and find your inner peace, love, self-realisation and true identity.



I am grateful to Zitta Sultanbayeva for providing a background information and artworks she kindly shared with me for this blog.  I also used some factual data from her book ‘Art-Atmosphere of Alma-Ata: yesterday, today, tomorrow…’ (Almaty, 2016).

April 2018

 Rosa Vercoe


The Book Launch of ‘TURKIC SOUNDSCAPES: from Shamanic Voices to Hip-Hop’ by Dr Razia Sultanova and Dr Megan Rancier

It is amazing to observe so many events and societies in London and especially in the UK, focused on everything Central Asian – be it its fascinating history, culture, fashion, tourism, geopolitics, economics or anthropology.  I remember when I came to the UK as a tourist for the first time in 1997, very few people, I spoke to knew more or less where or what Kazakhstan was. Now all sorts of groups and societies have mushroomed in the UK and generally in Europe – researching, discussing and exploring all angles of this fascinating region. Of course, needless to say, it is the Chinese grand Belt and Road Project that has contributed immensely to the revival of this insatiable interest in Central Asia as it is a vital part of the Silk Road.

Last week, I attended a beautiful event hosted by the Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Centre, based in Maple Street, in a busy, lively area of London. The event was dedicated to a book launch Turkic Soundscapes: From Shamanic Voices to Hip-Hop edited by Dr Razia Sultanova (The UK) and Dr Megan Rancier (The USA). Dr Razia Sultanova is Affiliated Researcher of the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, a leading expert on Central Asian music and a prolific writer in the field of Central Asian musicology.

Razia edited
Dr Razia Sultanova

The gathering started with an introduction by the Ambassador of Kazakhstan, Mr Erlan Iddrissov who congratulated all the ladies present on the Women’s International Day – he started his speech in Kazakh and then smoothly switched to English. Astonishingly, a year ago, he presented his credentials to Her Majesty the Queen on the International Women’s Day when he had to explain to the Queen the meaning of this day! He mentioned that the audience for Central Asia is growing in London and it is pleasing to see that Central Asia is not behind the closed wall anymore as was the case before. He highly praised Dr Sultanova’s book for bringing the rich kaleidoscope of the musical culture of Central Asia to a wider audience. I liked his statement that ‘the history of a human race can be easily traced through the simple things, such as: what you eat, where you live and what you sing’. Indeed, wisdom and knowledge often come in simple terms and shapes.

Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan, HE Yerlan Idrissov

For me, it was the discovery of the evening to learn about the Turksoy, the organisation which supported and brought this 5-year project to fruition thanks to its generous financial contribution along with the Kazakhstan Embassy’s support. In my conversation with Professor Ducen Kasseinov, The Secretary General of Turksoy, I learned that the organisation supports projects that promote multifaceted Turkic culture, and its status is equal to that of the UNESCO of the Turkic World (it is based on similar principles and goals). It was established in 1993 when the Ministers of Culture of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey signed an agreement to promote a common heritage of Turkic culture, literature and art.  The following members have the observer status: the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the autonomous republics of the Russian Federation, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Altai, Sakha, Tyva, Khakassia, and Gagauzia (Moldova). The organisation has a portfolio of cultural and academic events taking place in different parts of the world.


Going back to our event, there was a range of speakers at the Centre, mainly academics, who gave a high appraisal to the collective work led by Dr Razia Sultanova. In her presentation, Razia mentioned that the project has eventually become a reality thanks to 13 contributors living and working in different countries:

‘It is a very first publication that presents a survey of music from the Turkic-speaking world. It is also an attempt to bridge cultures, as our authors come from Europe and the USA, offering Western scholarly academic views on the music of the area […], as well as from the Former USSR […], Eastern Europe […] and Turkey […]. The contributions of some authors examine how music was affected by the Soviet Union’s heavy ideology and how the centuries-old music of oral tradition developed under the Soviet style of life. Most of our authors are also performers whose academic activity coexists with practical musical experience […] which brings to their writing the additional knowledge of participant observation’.

On the Waterstones Marketplace website, the book is described as ‘ a well-balanced survey of music in the Turkic-speaking world, representing folk, popular and classical traditions equally, as well as discussing how these traditions have changed in response to growing modernity and cosmopolitanism in Europe and Central Asia’.

I am pleased to add that for the book cover, the editors chose the artwork by the Kazakh artist Saule Suleimenova.  The book is being sold via Amazon and Waterstones Marketplace at the price of over £100 for the hardcover – not cheap, obviously, but, perhaps, something worth investing in if you are really interested, and if it helps your research and understanding of the incredibly wide-ranging and versatile Turkic music and culture. Book cover

The evening ended with a beautiful concert of Central Asian performers: Sardor Mirzakhodjaev (a prominent Uzbek musician), Rasim Fayziev (Azerbaijani Mugham performer), Yeraln Ryskaly (the Honoured Artist of Kazakhstan) and Rahima Mahmut (a well-known Uyghur singer, a member of the London Uyghur Ensemble).  They are the most enjoyable performers if you have the opportunity to listen to them live.

Me and rahima
With a well-known Uyghur singer, Rahima Makhmut (left)