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2016 †N5-6(134-135)
The annual Week of Culture marking the professional holiday of workers of culture and art is held alternately in different regions of Turkmenistan. Such festival of the creative forces of national culture is intended to present a colorful and multi-faceted palette of national art, promote professional growth of artists and discover new talents. One of the main goals of the festival was to preserve and increase spiritual heritage. At the same time, the Week of Culture provided opportunities to present the diverse historical and cultural heritage of the regions of Turkmenistan, as each region keeps the traces of ancient civilizations and centuries-old evidence of the highest culture of the Turkmen people that made a significant contribution to the treasury of the universal cultural values.
This year, the baton was passed to the city of Mary that in recent years has more than once hosted major events and successfully fulfilled the honorable missions as the Cultural Capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2012 and the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World in 2015. It also hosted major international scientific conferences and cultural events.
The Week of Culture was of special importance in the light of Turkmenistan's declaration of 2016 as the Year of Honoring the Heritage and Transformation of Fatherland. Versatility was the distinctive feature of this large-scale action. It presented not only all kinds of art and diversity of the folklore genre but also the desire to preserve and promote the centuries-old creative and spiritual experience of the people and its openness to the new, positive and interesting changes that come with modernity.
The city of Mary is the successor to Ancient Merv and the great heritage of the ancestors that made a significant contribution to the world treasury of human culture. Residents of modern Mary multiply the glory of the city. Traditions of one of the world oldest civilizations continue in the music and song art, the museum and library sciences, the modern architectural style of the city, the original style of masters of fine and decorative arts.
In preparation for the opening ceremony of the Week of Culture, the festival organizers used both traditional and modern methods of holding large-scale celebrations. The festively decorated square in the city center provided space for exhibitions that presented the ancient original traditions, rich cultural heritage of the Turkmen people and its art. There were also presented a variety of crafts, national clothes and natural fabrics, carpets, felt mats, ceramics and wood products, as well as fine jewelry works. These elements of the festival made it particularly colorful. They provided evidence of the nation's strong commitment to its rich cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions.
A big concert by masters of art and popular art groups of the country was the first event of the cultural forum. The festive program emphasized the theme of maintaining the heritage and modern achievements in the song-music and choreographic art. This theme permeated both the concert numbers and stage scenery that was supported to the great extent by modern technical means. Visual effects accompanying the concert performances were helpful in creating mini-story shows on the stage.
It is important to note that by tradition masters of art of Turkmenistan prepared premiere numbers to celebrate their professional holiday. Moreover, many artists debuted on the big stage at the concert in honor of the Week of Culture.
In the second half of the first day of the festival, celebrations in honor of the opening of the 2016 Week of Culture continued at the Mary Library, which is the true center of spiritual life of the region, its scientific and methodical cradle.
An exhibition of works by renowned painters of the Mary painting school was set up at the library foyer. It is quite natural that the cultural treasury of the past centuries could not but influence immensely the creative motifs and conceptual views of masters of brush. The original paintings by the contemporary painters present broad reflections on Ancient Merv, images of rulers, generals, philosophers of the past centuries and legends describing the great past. A poetry soiree titled "Source of Inspiration" was held at the library. It brought together both well-known masters of artistic expression and novice poets of Turkmenistan, who presented their new works.
The eventful first day of the festival finished with an outdoor gala concert in the square in front of the regional library. Folklore-ethnographic ensembles and popular dance groups, famous folk and pop singers demonstrated their original art and skills on the open-air stage.
Despite the diversity of themes, the second day events of the Week of Culture fitted into the common conceptual idea, i.e. the continuity of national culture.
In the first half of the day, the forum participants visited the State Historical and Cultural Park "Ancient Merv" where they viewed the unique monuments such as the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, ancient fortresses of Erkkala, Big and Small Kyz-Kala, other architectural masterpieces included in the prestigious UNESCO List of World Heritage. The visit to the monuments of history and culture was an important component of the Week of Culture program, emphasizing the idea of continuity of cultural traditions and their modern development that is inherent in the very concept of the festival.
White yurts were erected in the immediate vicinity of the historical monuments. They symbolized preservation of the national roots and origins. By tradition, the guests were welcomed with freshly baked Churek and treated to fragrant green tea. Young riders showed the grace of Akhal-Teke horses. Bells rang rhythmically on proudly and sedately pacing camels - "the ships of the desert" carrying a wedding procession. These ethnographic features stressed the indissoluble link of the past and the present, because traditions in Turkmenistan are much more than just a tribute to the foundations. It is a living reality that permeates the society at all levels.
In the morning of the same day, in the festively decorated square in front of the Mary Library, young artists and children's art groups of Mary province performed in the concert program under the theme "Happy Generation". The concert participants shined with their brilliant talents and mastery in singing-musical and choreographic compositions. Young talents from the cities and villages of the region demonstrated their mastery handling of a variety of instruments. The audience rewarded with applause young Bakhshi, tuydukchi and deprekchi, as well as violinists, flutists, clarinetists, accordionists who virtuously played the compositions of different genres. The ancient ritual dance Kushtdepdi masterfully performed by the children's art groups became the symbol of the continuation of tradition, the embodiment of the identity of the Turkmen national culture. The children's art festival emphasized the everlasting importance of continuity of the school.
In the evening, another concert brought together the art forum participants in the square in front of the regional library, where the artists of Balkan and Dashoguz provinces demonstrated their talents.
The third day of the Week of Culture was kaleidoscopically diverse. In the morning, the festival participants, numerous city dwellers and visitors gathered in the square in front of the Local History Museum of Mary province whose architectural appearance embodies the great national traditions of architecture. The museum arranged an exhibition in the hall of temporary exhibitions in celebration of the Week of Culture. The exhibition featured the unique samples of arts and crafts, including old jewelry, national clothes, wall hangings, etc., as well as documentary evidences such as photos on ethnographic and historical themes that are stored in the museum funds. Most of the photographs covered the history and modern day of the city on Murghab river.
A large-scale exhibition of arts and crafts was also set up in front of the museum. The exhibits were placed in the national yurts and trestle beds decorated with rugs. The exhibition presented a variety of works by modern masters that absorbed the centuries-old experience, ancient traditions and artistic imagination. The rich original culture of the people and the great variety of arts and crafts were reflected in the carpets and rugs, felt mats with classic and modern ornaments, items of national apparel, jewelry, ceramics, original textiles with embroidery, keteni and other handicrafts. It should be noted that the exhibition offered visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with the actual processes of manufacturing.
This exhibition was a kind of prologue to the exhibition and conference titled "Cultural Heritage - Spiritual World of the People." The extensive exhibition presented the items from the State Museum of the State Cultural Centre of Turkmenistan, the Museum of Fine Arts, the works by members of the Union of Painters, as well as students of the State Academy of Fine Arts. It also displayed printed products, such as the works of classical national literature making the "gold fund", the books on history and arts, architecture of Ancient Merv, poetry collections and others.
The visitors got acquainted with the samples of arts and crafts that are stored in the museum collections of the country, as well as drawings, paintings, ceramics by masters of the Turkmen school of fine arts and students of the State Academy of Fine Arts. The second floor of the museum accommodated the works of the national fine arts constituting its "gold fund", including the magnificent paintings with broad and original reflections on the themes of Ancient Merv. Paintings by masters of brush made in different styles depicted the landscape sketches, scenes from the life of the people, portraits of contemporaries. Bright colors, poetry and unique national color distinguished the works depicting female images. Performances by the combined ensemble of Bakhshi added a special festive mood to the work of the exhibition.
Issues related to the further development of culture were discussed at the conference. In their speeches, art critics, culture experts, specialists of the museum and library science, poets, writers, artists, university professors specializing in arts and culture, as well as journalists spoke about preservation, study and promotion of the international historical and cultural heritage, as well as the latest achievements of culture and art of the Turkmen people. In this regard, they stressed fruitfulness of the further cooperation in the framework of UNESCO.
The conference participants shared the results of their scientific, historical and cultural research that shed light on the establishment and development of various areas of national art.
History and national cultural traditions also featured in the new theater play "Ata Pendi" (father's instructions) that was presented by the Kemine State Drama Theatre of Mary province in the evening.
The new play presents a story about the national hero, singer and musician Gerogly, the legends of whom were passed down verbally for centuries and played by folk musicians. The ancient Turkmen epic "Gerogly" repeatedly inspired national figures of theatrical art for creation of art works. As is known, the character of the legendary national hero was twice staged in opera productions by the Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly and in the musical play "Marriage of Gerogly" by the Main Drama Theatre. In June of this year, the Turkmen Student Theater named after Mollanepes presented its reading of the epic at the premiere play named "Birth of Gerogly". Epic "Gerogly" got a powerful impetus for the further popularization when it was included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage as a model of Destan art of the Turkmen people.
The new play is based on the legend of how fearless and courageous Gerogly was presented with his extraordinary bow. The play "Ata Pendi" is replete with symbolic details, realities of the oriental daily life and folk flavor. One of the messages of the play is about the need to preserve and multiply the cultural wealth and centuries-old folk traditions - the eternal source of strength and inspiration. "Ata Pendi" ends symbolically with the scene of festivities.
The final event of the third day of the cultural forum was a big joint concert by masters of culture and art of the city of Ashgabat and Akhal province in the square in front of the Mary Library.
The following day was devoted to folk music. The atmosphere of the great Turkmen celebration reigned in the square in front of the Regional Museum of Mary province. An impromptu Turkmen village was erected near the museum the day before. An ethnographic exhibition was set up at the white yurts with colorfully decorated trestle beds. Traditional crafts and splendid examples of arts and crafts were presented widely at the exhibition. The exhibition also included an exposition of books and works by the Mary painters on the topic of arts.
Such colorful ethnographic environment provided an organic background for the performances by the group of dutar players, accounting for one hundred players from different regions of the country. They proved the people's genuine love of the centuries-old music and singing art. It is noteworthy that young musicians Bakhshi performed at a concert along with the renowned artists. The concert program included instrumental music, performances of fragments from Destans and songs based on the lyric poems of prominent Turkmen poets. Despite the common roots, the music and singing art has its own characteristics in each region and its own school, dating back to the distant past. Each school of the music and singing art is developing further. However, the current generation of "folklorists" preserves and develops the traditions of Turkmen music performance and follows the example of the founders and custodians of these traditions that was so well demonstrated by young Bakhshi.
By tradition, another day of the cultural forum concluded with a large-scale joint concert. This time, masters of culture and art of Lebap and Mary provinces demonstrated their talents.
The opera art was the dominant theme of the fifth day of the Week of Culture. It opened with the premiere of "Sayatkhan" opera at the Kemine State Drama Theatre. The opera premiere was timed to coincide with Day of Workers of Culture and Art that was established at the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan on 27 June 2008. This day went down in history of the national art as the date of revival of Turkmen opera. Since then, opera productions have become an integral part of the Week of Culture.
Opera "Sayatkhan" was composed by the talented Turkmen composer, Aman Agadzhikov. Composer Nurygandym Hojamuhammedov contributed to this work. The libretto by Alty Karliyev and Atamyrat Atabaev is based on the folk destan "Sayatly Hemra." Using the folk music and the plot of destan, the producers creatively rethought the opera to bring it closer to the present day. Centuries later, a story of the beautiful and sublime love glorified in the opera still tunes, like a tuning fork, the hearts for a wave of light and goodness.
According to opera director Aynazar Batyrov, the national destan is an embodiment of the national heritage, which is very characteristic and important for the theatrical plays in the Year of Honoring the Heritage and Transformation of Fatherland. The colorful opera helps viewers to feel the uniqueness of Turkmen traditions and rituals. It is no accident that almost all the verses of Sayatly Hemra have turned into folk songs that can be often heard during big holidays and family parties.
The theme of honoring the heritage was also reflected in the original stage scenery that looked like women's national ornaments. They not only added a special flavor to the opera but also acted as its operational elements. Each of the scenery moves freely across the stage and over it, easily transforming into towers that resemble the oriental minarets and the dungeon where the hero was imprisoned, an abode of lofty dreams, a secluded meeting place for the play's characters, etc.
The opera is about a beautiful and proud girl named Sayatkhan whose heart belongs to a musician named Hemra. According to the plot, the characters overcome with dignity all the trials of life despite many obstacles. The theme of art also features in the opera with the permanent image of dutar serving as its symbol. The musical drama of the new opera extensively employs large forms. The opera is full of large-scale choral episodes and action. All mass scenes are imbued with the national spirit, good humor and life-asserting force.
Along with theater masters, students of the Turkmen National Conservatoire performed the main parts in "Sayatkhan." This was their first acting experience in the professional theater. The union of experience, skills and youth stresses the idea of continuity of generations inherent in the Turkmen culture. The cast also involved the State Symphony Orchestra, the State Choir, artists of the Turkmen National Music and Drama Theatre named after Magtymguly and the Turkmen State Institute of Culture.
A big gala concert held on the day of the professional holiday of workers of culture and art of Turkmenistan was the concluding event of the Week of Culture. The gala concert was held at "Trkmeni ak i" building (Turkmen white yurt) which is noted for its original architecture and national dcor. It opened last year in celebration of the anniversary of Turkmenistan's neutrality.
The leading soloists, singers, rising national stars - winners of national art contests, famous dance ensembles and folk groups from various regions of the country were honored to perform at the concluding event of the Week of Culture.
The concert program included folk melodies, modern rhythms and lyrical vocal composition, including national and world classical music. Choreographic compositions on folklore motifs by popular dance ensembles added a special flavor to the concert. Modern equipment and technical devices, as well as the original stage design supported the implementation of innovative solutions of the organizers of the grand show.
The symbolic handing of the baton of the Week of Culture was one of the key moments of the festivities. According to the decree signed by the President of Turkmenistan, the next Week of Culture will be held in Ashgabat in 2017.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005