Kyrgyzstan is known for its arts and crafts. More specifically, they excel at the art of felt work, embroidery, and weaving. Many of the nomadic people still live in traditional houses called yurts: these are like large round tent-like homes that can be packed up and moved. Yurts are often decorated with a number of rugs and woven mats on the inside. They often make carpets out of felt with ornamentations called a “skyrdak.” It’s generally made out of wool, painted with bright colors, and is usually about 4m x 2m (13.1 ft x 6.6 ft). A variation of this is the “ala kiyiz,” which is not sewed together but rather rolled together.
Before they lay the carpets on the ground, they place woven mats under them first. These woven mats are called “chiy” and are made with straw and colored threads of wool. They are designed to keep the moisture off of the carpets.
Embroidery is also important to the Kyrgyz culture and is chiefly a women’s occupation. It’s namely used on wall hangings, bags, and clothing. Leatherwork is also valued for use in horse equipment, shoes, clothing, and other pieces of equipment. Woodworking is also essential and is often utilized in furniture, cooking utensils and other tools, game boards, and musical instruments. Silver, especially in the form of jewelry, is deemed sacred and is thought to keep evil spirits away. I’ve always liked silver jewelry better than gold since I was a teenager, so I think I’d fit right in.
As far as painting goes, it wasn’t something their culture did for a long time. You have to remember for many centuries, much of their culture was nomadic, so painting wasn’t exactly conducive to that lifestyle. But as cities began to take hold and especially when country fell underneath Russian rule, the arts were highly subsidized and encouraged. Art schools were established. Once they gained their independence after Russia broke apart, their economy collapsed, and the arts were the first to suffer. However, some art galleries have reopened and artists are painting and creating again. Although many styles of art are taught in the art schools, many Kyrgyz artists latch onto realism and portrait painting (which is odd considering Kyrgyzstan is primarily a Muslim country, and painting human forms is traditionally prohibited in Islam. This is probably allowed due to their lack of devoutness.).
|by Semen Chuikov|
By far, the most well-known literary work is the Manas epic. It’s one of the world’s longest epic poems, coming in at around a half million lines. (In comparison, it’s roughly 20 times longer than Homer’s Odyssey.) This poem tells the historical accounts of Manas and his efforts to unite all of the tribes in the Kyrgyz lands to fight against the Chinese and Uyghurs and others.
|Statue of Manas|
Today, most Kyrgyz writers write in either Russian or Kyrgyz, and author Chyngyz Aitmatov writes in both. Aitmatov is often considered one of Kyrgyzstan’s most well-known authors. His first novel was published in 1956 and has published many novels with his latest novel being published in 2006. His most famous works include Jamilia, The White Steamboat, The Girl With the Red Scarf, and The DayLasts More Than a Hundred Years. Many of these also have English language translations. He won the Lenin Prize in 1963 for Tales of Mountains and Steppes, a compilation of several stories.
Other Kyrgyz writers include Kasïmalï Bayalinov whose story “Ajar” was the first short story published 1927 and Tügölbay Sïdïkbekov whose novel Keng-Suu was the first novel published in 1937. Folklore has influenced poetry through the efforts of Joomart Bökönbaev, Jusup Turusbekov, Kubanïchbek Malikov, and Aalï Tokombaev. The first newspaper, Erkin Too, was created in 1924, and thus, the Kyrgyz press was born.
There have also been a handful of books written about Kyrgyzstan, mostly by Americans and several of them Peace Corps members. Other Americans who found themselves in the country have written about their experiences as well.
Up next: music and dance