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2020 †N7-8(184-185)
The city of Dashoguz hosted Culture Week in the last decade of July. The art forum is held annually on an alternating basis in the capital city and all provinces of Turkmenistan on the eve of Day of Workers of Culture and Art and Magtymguly Fraghi's Poetry.
Since its launch at the Avaza National Tourist Zone in 2013, the art forum has expanded its geography to other regions of the country, while growing in scope, demonstrating a diverse palette of modern Turkmen culture and reflecting the development of national art, including opera, music, song, film and theater, visual and decorative-applied arts, crafts, literature and folk art, journalism and publishing.
It should be noted that this year's Culture Week was held not only in the provincial centers but also in rural areas that boast relevant infrastructure for development of culture. Last year, a district in Balkan province named after Magtymguly, which is a birthplace of the great poet and philosopher, was chosen as a venue of the forum. And this year, a series of events took place in rural recreation centers of the northern province of Turkmenistan.
This approach makes it possible not only to "propagate cultural awareness" but also popularize the uniqueness of traditions and customs that are being carefully preserved in an authentic environment, showing the way to our origins. For example, creative people were greatly motivated when they visited a birthplace of Magtymguly, saw the landscapes that inspired the poet and met with his descendants.
In addition, one of the goals of the art forum is to search for new talents. By expanding its geography, the forum helps talented people from the hinterland to demonstrate their artistry and be seen by specialists, and sometimes get a start in artistic life.
It is heart-warming to realize that in spite of its well-established traditions and festive events the action has not turned into a static phenomenon over the years. On the contrary, it has taken on a new meaning, nuances, emotions, impressions, remaining one of the impressive events in the cultural life of Turkmenistan not only for the forum participants but also for various groups of the population in different parts of the country who look forward to meeting with popular artists, well-known cultural workers of the country and premiere performances.
The Gerogly square with a monument to the hero of the Turkmen epic surrounded by multi-tiered fountains was chosen as a center of celebrations and major events in Dashoguz. In recent years, this square has hosted a number of large-scale international events, including the festival of friendship between the peoples of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and celebrations on the occasion of naming Dashoguz the cultural capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2016.
Despite the commonality of historical development of the national culture, each region of Turkmenistan is distinguished by its original cultural code, its unique ornament in the diversity of features of spiritual heritage of the Turkmen people. Nowadays, ancient traditions are visible in the development of crafts, musical and visual arts. For example, a Dashoguz bakhshi's manner of performance cannot be confused with any other, and the traditional storytelling of destans is a peculiar visiting card of this area that gave birth to many famous folk destan storytellers. It is no accident that it was this place where the first monument to the main Turkmen musical instrument (Dutar) was erected and the mausoleum of the holy patron of singers and musicians of the East, Ashyk Aydin Pir, is located, and where people to this day remember the names of prominent bakhshis and make legends about them.
There is an exposition at the Dashoguz Regional Museum that displays the works by famous folk musicians, virtuoso masters, popularizes of Turkmen folk music and classical poetry. In the museum, one can find photo documents and recordings of performances by popular storytellers of Turkmen epics and destans, songs on the verses by Magtymguly Fraghi, Seydi, Zelili, Kemine, Mollanepes that are part of the "golden fund" of the national musical culture.
There flourished a large and powerful state in the northern region of Turkmenistan at the turn of the 12th-13th centuries, in which great philosophers and outstanding architects worked and famous Sufis and theologians preached their sermons. The names of prominent personalities such as Nadzhmeddin Kubra and Mahmud Zamakhshari, Ashyk Aydin Pir, Mahmyt Palvan, Nurmuhammet Andalyp, Shabende, Avicenna, Al Khorezmi, Biruni and others are well-known, and interest to their studies has not faded to this day.
The surviving monuments in the Kunyaurgench State Historical and Cultural Reserve recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site remind us of the former splendor of the ancient architecture. These holy places are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
Demonstrating the dynamics of heritage and development of the culture of the ancient land in line with traditions is one of the tasks successfully addressed in the course of Culture Week - 2020. The program of events included scientific conferences and art meetings, concerts of artists, musical and poetry gatherings, film screenings, performances by young talents, theater premieres, exhibitions of fine, decorative and applied arts, museum values and modern publishing, guided tours of memorial sites.
On the day of the opening of the art forum, the roads leading to the Gerogly square were replete with elegant, oriental-style pavilions with exhibits telling about the original traditions of the people and its rich cultural heritage. The exhibition presented a variety of traditional crafts, national clothes and natural fabrics, carpets and felt rugs with characteristic regional ornaments and color schemes, ceramic and jewelry, folk musical instruments, paintings and sculptural compositions.
An exhibition of fine, decorative and applied arts and museum values also started on the first day of the forum in the picturesque city park "Dostluk". Throughout Culture Week, such exhibitions were accompanied with various actions both in Dashoguz and rural recreation houses.
As for the forum participants, they introduced themselves during a cheerful parade procession, in which famous theater artists, pop and folk performers, specialists in museum and library business, artists and poets, professional ensembles and popular folk and ethnographic groups marched in front of the spectators.
In his message to the forum participants, the President of Turkmenistan, who initiated holding such art festival in the country, emphasized the importance of the action.
One of the specifics of the annual Culture Week is that it not only represents all types of art and the genre diversity of folklore but also demonstrates openness to everything new and interesting that modernity brings with it. This premise determined the spirit of the festive concert marking the start of the forum events. The great poet and thinker, Magtymguly Fraghi, was paid a tribute in the songs on his lyric poems. Folk musicians, storytellers and famous Dashoguz bakhshis performed with great enthusiasm at the concert.
The ancient Turkmen ritual dance Kushtdepdi, which was included in the prestigious UNESCO list of cultural heritage, is also an invariable component of the art festival. The powerful energy of Kushtdepdi conveys the harmony of the dance of the past and the breath of its modern features. Accompanied by Ghazals (chants), the action with its expressive choreographic harmony and colorful national costumes of the performers produced an unusual emotional show symbolically emphasizing all the power, diversity and life-affirming message of the national culture and art.
Artists released white doves as a symbol of messengers of peace, friendship and brotherhood on the planet.
The art forum gathered pace day by day, demonstrating all the aspects of the ongoing work on development and popularization of cultural values. In this regard, exposing the forum participants to the historical and architectural heritage of the region and archaeological research work by scientists was very important.
As part of the study tour, the participants of Culture Week visited the mausoleum of the outstanding scientist, encyclopaedist and literary figure of the Middle Ages, Mahmyt Zamakhshar, located in the territory of the ancient fortress Izmikshir, 25 km from Dashoguz, whose rich cultural heritage presents an invaluable asset of all mankind.
The topic of modern archaeological research and work on the study and preservation of artifacts was the focus of discussion of specialists who gathered for a conference at the Regional Museum of History and Local Lore.
They discussed issues related to improving the work of museums and state historical and cultural reserves of the country, introducing digital technologies into their sphere of work, including the possibility of virtual modeling of monuments located along the Silk Road. The conference participants also discussed the widespread introduction of modern technologies in the operation of museum repositories, setting up an electronic database for accounting of valuables and studying the historical landscape of ancient cities through digital platforms.
The topic of the Great Silk Road was touched upon at a meeting with cinema figures at the recreation house of Altyn El village. It covered issues related to the further development of Turkmen cinema in the context of the implementation of the national cultural policy. The meeting participants watched feature film "The Great Silk Road" by Turkmenfilm association named after Oguzkhan, based on the work "Turkmenistan is the Heart of the Great Silk Road" by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, in which this ancient caravan route is presented as a unique historical and cultural phenomenon, as a link between East and West.
A methodological conference on the study of national dance and folklore art as well as improving the work of rural recreation houses was held in the aforementioned village. The participants discussed opportunities for organizing leisure activities and promoting inclusion of rural population into cultural activities and self-education, including through folk theaters.
Performances by folklore and ethnographic groups in the settlement of Derek were the best illustration of the efforts to preserve the continuity of ancient national traditions, spiritual and cultural values. The compositions by renowned virtuoso-musicians inspire professional and amateur musicians and singers who inherited the best traditions of the legendary Turkmen bakhshis. Those gathered in the regional center of Ruhubelent had the opportunity to see it with their own eyes. Representatives of folk music and song art performed in front of the monument to the patron saint of singers and musicians, Ashyk Aydin Pir. It has been believed since ancient times that a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Ashik Aydin Pir opens the way to art and, if one spends a night there performing destans, the saint would notice a pilgrim's talent and bless him to pursue music.
Book novelties and Turkmen literature classical works were displayed at the exhibition that was set up in the foyer of the regional library. It coincided with a conference held in the same library with participation of librarians and representatives of the mass media. Librarians from Ashgabat and other provinces joined them via video communication. They exchanged views on the prospects of introduction and widespread use of digital technologies in the process of book exchange, improving quality of services for the population, as well as replenishing library collections with new materials.
Theater premieres are one of Culture Week's great traditions and much awaited events. The State Music and Drama Theater named after Nurmukhammed Andalib of Dashoguz province presented a play about national hero Gerogly.
"Gerogly with music in his hands and words on his lips" is the literal translation of the name of the play that is deeply patriotic and rich in national colors that were conveyed through interpretation of characters, artistic design of scenes and the entire musical performance.
The premiere play was attuned to the motto of 2020 - "Turkmenistan - Homeland of Neutrality" because it highlights such features of Turkmen mentality as openness, peacemaking, and friendliness.
By tradition, a new opera premiered on June 26 at the Magtymguly National Music and Drama Theater in Ashgabat in celebration of the professional day of cultural workers. Opera "Nejep Oglan" is based on the eponymous destan, telling about the Turkmen school of folk music and bakhshi storytellers who devoted their lives to music and performing arts, preserving and passing down national musical traditions. The protagonist, Nedjep Oglan, a pupil of Ashyk Aydin Pir, wins the competition of bakhshi musicians, cures the disease with his art and wins a girl's heart. The colorful wedding of Nejep Oglan and Mylayym is the final scene of the opera.
Popular opera singers and their young colleagues - students of the Maya Kulieva Turkmen National Conservatory - combined classical opera canons with the original art of Destan telling and, most importantly, conveyed the main message of the opera - respect for the cultural roots, continuity of the Bakhshi art school and its bright future. In an interview with reporters, authors of the stage adaptation of the old destan - writer Govshutgeldy Danatarov, composer Nurygandym Khojamuhammedov and production director Aynazar Batyrov - explained that in choosing the opera libretto they were inspired by the prospects of enriching the storyline of the opera with the original sound of dutar and specific techniques of folk singing.
The theme of continuity of generations also found reflection in the events of Culture Week that were held with participation of children's art groups. A genuine celebration of young talents took place on the bank of Yashlar lake. A concert stage and exhibition pavilions were set up in the popular recreation area along the Shavat canal occupying about seven and a half hectares to enable young artists to demonstrate their various talents. Thematic exhibitions of drawings and handicrafts by pupils of children's art schools were also organized there. Young artists, including from the art schools of the northern region of the country, entertained the guests with cheerful musical and choreographic performances.
The professional holiday of cultural and art workers in Turkmenistan is traditionally combined with the celebration of poet and thinker Magtymguly Fraghi, thereby emphasizing the role of the outstanding master of versification in developing Turkmen literature and culture, who glorified the everlasting universal values and humanistic ideals. The program of events of the art forum that took place in the square bearing his name also became a tribute to the poet. A literary gathering was held at the monument to Magtymguly, bringing together both well-known masters of artistic word and beginner poets of Turkmenistan. On the final day of the forum, the participants laid flowers at the foot of the monument.
Culture Week finished with a big concert in the Gerogly square. The symbolic handover of the baton of Culture Week was one of the key features of the celebration. According to the presidential decree, it will be held in Lebap province of Turkmenistan in 2021.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005