In October, central London locations will play host to a variety of events celebrating Central Asian arts – work from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. An under-represented area in the international arts, Central Asia is a melting pot of cultures, where the Silk Road connected Europe and Asia and where the global superpowers of Russia, China and India meet. From a national, religious, and historical perspective, Central Asia is a true melting pot of culture, language and art.
This new festival will offer a variety of different arts events from Central Asia, including verbatim theatre and classical adaptations, folk music and dance, and talks and lectures introducing the area to a London audience. Events include screenings of Tajik and Uzbek films, Uyghur folk music, Sufi-inspired Uzbek dance, Muqam singing, a lecture from an Islamic dance specialist, Kyrgyz classical music and folk songs and verbatim theatre from Russia.
The festival will then end with a final night event including Muqam dance performed alongside jazz/folk fusion based pieces from Uzbekistan and Sweden and a panel discussion between regional theatre directors and performers and drama teacher of University of Arts Khamida Makhmudova.
DIARY OF EVENTS
The Bowl, film screening from Tajikistan
5 October, Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS, 7.30pm
This film tells the story of three generations of a family and their different relationships. An old man Abdulla lives with his son Khakim, daughter in law Gulandom and his grandson Umed. Abdulla has health issues and is not well, but he is a very kind and friendly person.
Gulandom doesn’t like her father in law and doesn’t go to any length to hide her feelings towards him. One day she serves him food in an old cracked bowl. Quick-witted Umed questions his mother why his grandfather has to eat from a cracked bowl, but Abdulla smoothly escapes the situation and explains to his grandson that the bowl is a magic bowl and it helps him to get better. After a series of events that lead Abdulla to staying in the barn and away from the house, his son Khakim finds out about the story of the magic bowl and attempts to turn the situation around and resolve it, but it might just be too late.
London Uyghur Ensemble and Sanatim Dance Company
6 October, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre at SOAS, 7pm
The UK’s first London-based group performing the music of the Central Asian Uyghurs. Rahima Mahmut’s thrilling vocals are accompanied by an ensemble of long-necked lutes and frame drum.
Deeply imbued with the Sufi ethos, its limping rhythms and ecstatic poetry, this easternmost example of the maqam traditions of the Islamic world opens up new musical horizons for its audiences. For the festival the ensemble will be performing a wide range of its repertoire and bring to life these different traditions from this region of Central Asia.
San’at is a professional Uzbek dance performer who is based in Manchester, England. She has over twenty years of professional dance experience and performed as a solo as well as group dancer in many international shows, concerts and festivals all over the world including Europe, Asia and Japan.
Her skills and gracious, mystical style originates from Sufi branch of mystic following in Islam. An array of dance styles are the result of cultural synthesis emanating from ancient history of the Great Silk Route that extended from China, India, Central Asia through Ottoman Empire to Eastern Europe.
Her approach to art is unique and emphasizes cultural and historic reflections of many countries and regions within the ancient Silk Road.
To London with Love – and Central Asian Dance
7 October, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre at SOAS, 7pm
The Silk Road Dance Company and their pioneering performances offer a unique glimpse of the life and art of little known cultures, especially the Islamic world.
With an impressive repertoire of more than 130 dances, Silk Road Dance Company offers programs with a depth and breadth reflecting decades of field research and study by Dr. Laurel Gray who has received many awards for her life-time of creative work. Company dancers have also studied and travelled extensively throughout the East, mastering many dance styles. Some rare pieces are part of the company’s Legacy Repertiore; these rare dances are seldom now performed in the countries of origin.
Living Legacy: Women’s Dances of Uzbekistan
8 October, Room B104 at SOAS, 5pm
Shaped initially by geography and climate, indigenous Uzbek dances embody communal identity and provide an outlet for personal expression. Dance can also reflect social and political developments, especially the evolution of folkdance to professional art dance. These changes can give insight into Uzbek women’s changing status and the development of national identity. And while folk dance continues to be an integral part of Uzbek family and community events, the forces of urbanization and globalization have significantly impacted these traditions.
40 Days of Silence, Q&A Film Screening with director Soadat Ismailova
8 October, Kamran Djam Lecture Theatre at SOAS, 7pm
In an isolated Uzbek village, young Bibicha takes a traditional vow of silence and moves into her grandmother’s old house, along with three other women, to be part of a chilla, or spiritual “quarantine.”
In her home, four women from four generations live their day-to-day lives under one roof: a grandmother who married and became a widow when she was just a kid, her oldest daughter who lived in the city and had a child, the granddaughter, out of wedlock, and Bibicha, the aunt and youngest daughter.
Saodat Ismailova’s first dramatic feature film, shot on location in the Rangoon Valley in Tajikistan, makes silence it’s foundation and features an ample and keen sense of shadow, light, and color that is worthy of patience and close attention.
The Cry of the Queen
17 October, The Space on the Isle of Dogs, 5pm
Sultan Raev is well known Kyrgyz writer, dramaturge and a diplomat. Raev’s plays have been staged in many theatres in post-Soviet countries. The Cry of the Queen is the first Kyrgyz play that ever has been staged in London. This play tells the story of the legendary Kurmanjan Datka, the first female ruler in Central Asia. In 1862, her husband Alimbek, king of the Alay mountains, died at the hands of traitors. Kurmanjan immediately took his crown and dedicated herself to fulfilling his political vision.
Not long after, Russian General Skobelev attacked the Kyrgyz rebels and captured their Alay queen. Kurmanjan was eventually forced to sacrifice her own son in order to rescue her people from certain genocide. The Cry of the Queen is about this tragic page in the history of Kyrgyzstan.
The Cry of the Queen is a play in folklore – ethnographic form; in fact it is theatrical ritual. Its unconventional dramaturgy also explores customs to reveal the philosophy of the Kyrgyz people, fusing elements in unusual ways to capture and convey the spirit of a whole nation. At the end of the evening Q&A with the author and the director of the show.
17 October, The Space on the Isle of Dogs, 7.30pm
Fool’s Court consists of a few devised pieces about King Lear and Prince Hamlet in their final days, after King Lear has been expelled from the palace by his daughters and Prince Hamlet has the blood of three of his relatives on his hands, and is wanted by his uncle Claudius.
Prompter, Bishkek Youth Theatre
18 October, Venue TBC
Prompter is about the life of an actress, a creative person, an artist that is nothing more than the Prompter for the other actors in the theatre. The Prompter has worked all her life in the theatre, she knows everything about everyone in this theatre, and she knows the lines of all the plays almost by heart. She always dreamt of being an actress. When no one is around she goes on stage and plays roles…
One day she is on stage again and suddenly the curtains go up and the house is full… It’s her time, her moment. Prompter is performed by award winner People’s Artist of Kyrgzyzstan Nazira Mambetova.
Closing Ceremony at Rich Mix, hosted by DASH Arts
19 October, Rich Mix, 7pm
For the final night of the festival we welcome back Muqam Central Asia, who will be performing alongside the OH3 trio from Sweden. They will be performing a set of jazz/folk fusion based pieces from Uzbekistan and Sweden.
The performance will be followed by a panel discussion of the festival with the following: playwright and theatre director Sultan Raev (Kyrgyzstan), theatre director Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli (Turkmenistan), professor and drama teacher of University of Arts Khamida Makhmudova (Uzbekistan), actress Nargiz Abdullaeva (Moscow), actor, director, founder of Orzu Arts Yuldosh Juraboev (London, UK) and actor and director Muhiddin Muzafar (Tajikistan).