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2021  N7-8(196-197)
Lebap province hosted Week of Culture - 2021 that traditionally precedes Day of Workers of Culture and Art and Poetry by Magtymguly Fraghi celebrated in Turkmenistan on June 27. The festival of national culture has been held in different regions of the country since 2013 at the initiative of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and the palette of the Week of Culture constituent events is becoming more and more rich and meaningful.
The cultural events organized within the framework of the Week of Culture not only presented the different facets of Turkmen culture but also reflected the processes of change taking place in this sphere, as exemplified by the festive events in Lebap province that took up the baton of the Week of Culture for the second time.
Over the past six years, new centers of culture have appeared in Turkmenabat, in regional towns and villages that helped to considerably increase opportunities for holding various art events and raising the cultural level of the population. The opening of “T"urkmenin ak "o'yi” (White Yurt of Turkmens) building in the regional center was also timed to coincide with this festival of arts. This modern, technologically equipped structure shaped like a yurt is intended for major events of national and international importance. The opening of the building was attended by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, whose participation added a special meaning to the ceremony. Such structures already function in a number of regions of the country and continue to be built, embodying the hospitality of the Turkmen people, a bright symbol of preservation of national roots, historical and cultural heritage.
The opening ceremony of the Week of Culture took place in the central square of the city on Amu Darya, in front of Rukhiet (Spirituality) Palace, surrounded by elegant pavilions stylized as elements of the Turkmen yurt. Works of decorative and applied art, ceramics and sculpture, paintings, national clothes, fine jewelry, musical instruments, items of traditional everyday life and lifestyle of Turkmens were presented in all their diversity. The exhibition was decorated with mockups of the country’s historical and architectural monuments.
Meanwhile, work was in full swing in each pavilion with women doing needlework, spinning wool, making felt rugs, weaving carpets and jewelers and blacksmiths demonstrating their art. It was meant to emphasize the living connection of times and continuity of original traditions that are not only carefully preserved but also developed by folk craftsmen.
Such streamlets make a full-flowing river of Turkmen culture that combines the memory of centuries and present day. This was the emotional background of the events that took place within the framework of Week of Culture – 2021. It was spectacular and rich in content, reflecting the continuity of creative processes.
Other than well-known representatives of national culture, professional art groups and popular folklore and ethnographic ensembles, the celebration participants included musicians and singers, directors and actors, artists, poets and journalists who have just started their career in the great art.
Concerts, poetry readings, art meetings were held in different parts of the region. One of such meetings was organized in the native village of poet Seyitnazar Seydi - Lamma. There is a monument near the Soltanniyaz-Bega fortress, called the Seydi fortress by the local population, which was built by grateful descendants in honor of the heroic countryman, in which the image of the classic is embodied next to the faithful horse. According to the established tradition, newlyweds come here to honor his memory and lay flowers on the pedestal. People of all ages read extracts from the poems by lyricist and warrior Seyitnazar Seydi at the foot of the sculpture next to the surviving walls of the ancient fortress that stand on the land covered with the heroic glory of ancestors.
A poetry event took place in the village in honor of the outstanding poet and military leader, who is also famous for his talent as a singer-storyteller. During the event at the monument, famous masters of the artistic word read out wonderful lines of Seydi’s works. The poetry event culminated in a literary and musical composition prepared by theater artists who played the characters of outstanding Turkmen classics – Magtymguly, Seydi, Kemine, Zelili, Mollanepes, Myataji.
Bakhshi-musicians performed beautiful melodies and songs in white yurts erected on the square and trestle beds covered with beautiful national carpets. The baton of poetry readings was picked up by young poets who recited the poems glorifying enduring spiritual values.
It is noteworthy that the topic of organizing cultural and educational activities in rural areas was raised in the course of various events of the Week of Culture. These issues were discussed at conferences, methodological meetings and other events at the Museum of History and Local Lore and the regional library, regional recreation centers. The discussions covered the topic of development of the national museum and library business, preservation of traditions and working with creative youth.
Participants of the Week of Culture also got acquainted with the activities of large centers of culture of the city on Amu Darya, including the Museum of History and Local Lore that boasts more than 35 thousand exhibits, a significant part of which is an invaluable heritage of the country. In the recent years alone, the museum funds have been replenished with numerous ethnographic exhibits, as well as more than a hundred archaeological rarities discovered during seasonal excavations at the ancient settlement of Amul.
The museum arranged a gallery of works by regional artists on the topic of art for the Week of Culture. Visitors viewed with great interest the exhibition organized jointly by the Ashgabat and regional museums. Brought together for the first time in one of the largest museum halls, these works presented a large-scale and rich in content panorama of development of the national fine and decorative-applied art, the variety of its genres, styles and trends.
The Museum also hosted a meeting with the leaders and representatives of Turkmenistan’s National Commission for UNESCO and relevant department of the Ministry of Culture, who briefed the forum participants on the pace of work for development of cooperation with this international organization. They also informed the participants about Turkmenistan’s nominations for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Digital opportunities for organizing the work of the country’s book depositories were discussed during a conference at the Lebap Regional Library, which was joined online by specialists from the libraries of Ashgabat and regional centers of the country.
The innovative project development of the national book depositories, popularization of electronic books, opportunities for long-term preservation of electronic information, ensuring the preservation of ancient documents and books, as well as the priority tasks facing the branches of libraries for serving the rural population were on top of discussions.
Issues relating to the revival and popularization of cultural heritage, ancient specimens of folk music and dances, folklore, as well as enhancing the activities of rural centers of culture for reaching out to wider audience were discussed by the participants of the methodological conference at the House of Culture of Turkmenabat.
Film screenings were also held during the Week of Culture in the city on Amu Darya. Film lovers met with actors and directors of the Oguzkhan Turkmenfilm Association, watched several premiere full-length and short feature films and a new animated film. Turkmenabat residents also had the opportunity to watch the short films – winners of the Ashgabat Spring contest-festival dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the Turkmen capital.
Theater artists presented their works, including premieres. The theatrical playbill of the Week of Culture included the opera play “Gul - Bilbil” by the National Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly and the play “Legend of Music” by the State Music and Drama Theater named after Seyitnazar Seydi.
Opera “Gul – Bilbil” is based on the epic story of the Turkmen poet-improviser Abdullah Shabende. The authors of the play paid tribute to the national opera tradition by creatively rethinking the well-known fairy tale about the search for a beloved, focusing on themes and romantic motives that are close to the modern viewer. The play is distinguished by the well-chosen scenery. It was for the first time in the history of Turkmen opera that the play used video clips that organically complemented traditional theatrical drama.
The new play brought together the artists of the National Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly, the Mukam Palace of the State Cultural Center, teachers and students of the Turkmen National Conservatory named after Maya Kuliyeva, the State Choir and the Turkmen Special Music School. The orchestra was professionally conducted by the Conservatory’s third-year student. This union of craftsmanship and youth once again emphasized the idea of the continuity of art generations, which is characteristic of Turkmen culture.
The theme of the all-triumphant power of art was the basis for the new play by the Seyitnazar Seydi State Music and Drama Theater. The play tells a story of a girl who, thanks to her loyalty to her musical talent and fortitude, was able not only to overcome the medieval prejudices but also open the way for women to the art of bakhshi. National flavor and musicality are distinguished by the artistic design of the play, serving as a kind of anthem to the skill, talent and inspiration of the Turkmen people, who created distinctive musical and poetic traditions.
Other than these key events, a number of informal meetings, impromptu workshops and art discussions took place as part of Week of Culture – 2021.
Participants of the Week of Culture had the opportunity to visit historical and architectural monuments, appreciate the scale of preservation work carried out in recent years and learn about new archaeological discoveries.
It should be noted that the territory of the eastern region of the country boasts more than 200 architectural monuments of different eras, including the Astana-baba mausoleum, the Dayakhatyn caravanserai, the Alamberdar (Almutasir) mausoleum whose appearance reflected specific features of the Central Asian monumental architecture of the “golden age” (epoch of Seljuks), as well as the Idris-baba madrasah, in which great Turkmen poet-thinker Magtymguly Fraghi spent several years. These monuments have become the epicenter of attraction not only for scientists but also tourists from all over the world. The natural sights of the region, which is known for its unique landscapes such as the Dinosaur Plateau, caves, alpine landscapes, flora and fauna of the Koytendag and the Amu Darya state reserve as well as the country’s oldest Repetek state reserve, can also be called a national heritage.
The forum delegates consisting of museum specialists, workers of culture and artists split into two groups and visited the sites of historical and cultural objects, where they met with specialists and the local population.
As part of the excursions, the participants of the Week of Culture visited the Alamberdar mausoleum, one of the best examples of the 11th century architecture in Turkmenistan, and the Astana-baba memorial complex. They also visited the medieval settlement of Amul, the Dayakhatyn caravanserai that was built about a thousand years ago on one of the stretches of the Great Silk Road. The visitors were briefed on the ongoing scientific and research work on restoration, study and popularization of these historical monuments, which are part of the common cultural heritage of mankind.
Every evening, big concerts were held on the outdoor stage in the city square “Bitaraplyk” (Neutrality), being a kind of venue for the country’s art masters to report on their achievements. A modern, technically equipped stage was built over an artificial blue lake – an attraction of the city recreation area that was noticeably upgraded in preparation for the cultural forum.
And the final event of Week of Culture – 2021 was a concert of artists at the new building “T"urkmenin ak "o'yi” (White Yurt of Turkmens) dedicated to Day of Workers of Culture and Art and Poetry by Magtymguly Fraghi.
This day was celebrated with a flower-laying ceremony at the monument to the great Turkmen poet-thinker Magtymguly in one of the oldest parks of the city on Amu Darya, featuring the monuments to seven Turkmen classic poets.
It should also be noted that Turkmenistan has started preparations for the 300th anniversary of the birth of the classic poet. This day will be widely and solemnly celebrated in 2024. In this regard, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a relevant decree establishing an organizing committee to ensure the high-level organization of anniversary events.
The final concert program of the art festival included performances by theater artists, singers, folk groups and choreographic ensembles.
The concert featured folk music, modern rhythms and lyric vocal compositions, including those from the national poetic and musical classics. The festive concert was seasoned by songs based on the poems by Magtymguly Fraghi, as well as compositions praising the country’s modern achievements.
Performances by recognized and young artists – winners of art contests – created a palette of an iridescent festival in which ancient music and songs were intertwined with the dynamic popular modern rhythms and classical dance performances.
The symbolic baton of the art forum was passed from Lebap to Mary province in a creative, poetic way. According to the presidential decree, Mary province will host the next Week of Culture in 2022.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005