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2022  N5-6(206-207)
In the last ten days of June, the Turkmen city of Mary hosted the Week of Culture for the second time in the last ten years. This annual festival of arts is timed to coincide with the Day of Workers of Culture and Art, as well as Magtymguly Fragi’s poetry.
The continuity of cultural traditions that are carefully preserved and developed in modern Turkmenistan is the secret of longevity of this large-scale event that brings together artists from all over the country. Despite traditions that have developed over the years of the festival, the art forum regularly acquires new features and colors that highlight different facets of Turkmen art and help to identify bright talents.
The Week of Culture can be called a long-awaited event both for its numerous participants and hosts who actively prepare for the event throughout the year after receiving the right to host it. The Week of Culture in Mary was no exception. The program of the event included theater and film premieres, daily concert performances, as well as scientific and methodological conferences, field seminars and art meetings, poetry evenings and master classes, contests and exhibitions and an international media forum.
The significance of the Week of Culture, which has been held in the country for a decade now, is that it presents the fine line of merging its festive foundations with educational and cognitive elements that was also reflected in the program of the art forum in the Mary region. The colorful opening ceremony was accompanied by interactive exhibitions and cheerful performances by artists on the square in front of the Rukhyet Palace, in its foyer and under the arches of the magnificent hall.
The team of the National Music and Drama Theater named after Magtymguly in collaboration with the National Conservatory named after Maya Kuliyeva continued the excellent tradition of celebrating the festival with a new opera performance. The opera production “Magtymguly” on the basis of the opera of the same name by composer Yuli Meitus, written by him to the libretto by Berdy Kerbabaev and Alty Karliev, was staged for the first time at the theater exactly 10 years ago, in 2012. The current performance is an attempt to restore the opera on a new basis and with a new team of artists.
The idea of the inextricable spiritual connection of eras and generations permeates the entire musical and poetic storyline of the play, making the image of the poet close and understandable to every viewer. It is important to note that this idea was also reflected in the selection of artists, combining on stage the masters of musical art and novice actors – students of the Turkmen National Conservatory.
It is noteworthy that the chief consultant of the opera production “Magtymguly” in 2012 was the People’s Artist of Turkmenistan, Hero of Turkmenistan Maya Kulieva, whose life and work became the topic of the new book “Hero of Turkmenistan Maya Kulieva” that was released during the Week of Culture 2022. The new edition about the legend of the Turkmen opera was a valuable gift for numerous admirers of her talent both in the country and abroad. On the same days, two new publications by the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan were presented to the wide audience of readers - the two-volume book “Leading Artists of the Turkmen Theater, Cinema and Circus”, as well as an almanac in two volumes with the collection of plays by Turkmen playwrights.
The Week of Culture is a real holiday for rural residents, where they can see and listen to popular artists and singers and get acquainted with new films. Vekilbazar, Yolatan and Murgab districts were chosen for film screenings and meetings with producers of new films. As part of the festival, people watched the premieres of eight films by the Oguzkhan Turkmenfilm Association. These are full-length and short feature films of various genres.
The Mary region that is replete with historical and architectural monuments of universal significance provided an opportunity to demonstrate the large-scale work carried out in Turkmenistan on the study and preservation of the historical and cultural heritage and prospects in these areas.
The so-called field conferences and seminars have become popular in the country in recent years. They take place right at the sites of archaeological research. Such a meeting on the topic “New principles of careful preservation of historical and cultural monuments and prospects for development of tourism” was held at the State Historical and Cultural Reserve “Ancient Merv”, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.
An exhibition of artifacts discovered in this place was organized at the site of the research. Archaeologists demonstrated the specifics of work with the artifacts. The discussion of topical issues relating to international cooperation in the preservation of historical and cultural heritage continued at the Mary Regional Library, hosting a thematic conference dedicated to the cooperation of Turkmenistan with UNESCO. The conference participants discussed opportunities for the further promotion of joint projects, including those related to the nomination of a number of objects and samples of intangible cultural heritage for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In this context, special attention was paid to the dutar, the craftsmanship of making this musical instrument and the art of bakhshi musicians, who were included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the beginning of the year.
It was for the first time that a methodological conference was held as part of the Week of Culture to improve the activities of rural houses of culture, modernize document management and restore ancient samples of dance and folk art. It was held at the House of Culture of the city of Bayramali, where an exhibition of handicrafts was also organized. The traditional Turkmen dance Kushtdepdi was a separate topic of discussions. The participants were shown fragments of this dance. Each dance story was distinguished by its original interpretation.
A number of major events of the Week of Culture took place at the Museum of History and Local Lore of Mary province, including an international scientific and methodological meeting, a thematic meeting of museum specialists titled “Main areas of development of museum business in the era of Renaissance of the new epoch of the powerful state”, methodological courses to study the experience of improving the work of museum houses.
By tradition, the museum hosted a large-scale exhibition made up of exhibits from the State Museum of the State Cultural Center of Turkmenistan, the Museum of Fine Arts, regional museums, the works by members of the Union of Artists, as well as students of the State Academy of Arts.
Ethnographic artifacts were presented to the visitors of the exhibition, such as ancient clothes, exquisite jewelry, magnificent carpets and tapestries, objects telling about the origins of Turkmen arts and crafts, centuries-old traditions and customs of the people. The exhibits included documentary evidence – photographs on ethnographic and historical topics. Graphics, paintings, ceramics by the masters of fine arts, including representatives of the Mary school, as well as diploma works by students of the Academy of Arts were presented on the ground floor of the museum. The works of arts and crafts were demonstrated on the first floor.
The international scientific and methodological meeting “New principles of careful preservation of historical and cultural monuments and prospects for development of tourism” was held in a hybrid format. It heard the reports on the further study and popularization of the national heritage, the results of archaeological excavations conducted in different regions of the country, scientific research that opened new pages of the ancient history and culture of the Turkmen people. Foreign participants that joined the meeting online – representatives of the scientific community of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China – shared their vision of the prospects for development of cultural tourism in Turkmenistan.
A short video was played as part of the conference, presenting the prospects of tourism in Turkmenistan, including slides about the country’s historical and cultural sights included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List, modern architectural monuments and the intangible cultural heritage of the people.
One of the distinguishing features of the Week of Culture 2022 was the focus on the topic of improvement of activities of the mass media as an important factor in the development of international relations and popularization of the national culture.
These issues were on top of the agenda of the first international media forum held as part of the Week of Culture 2022 at the Mary hotel. It brought together public figures, representatives of the national mass media and the faculty of higher educational establishments of the country. Representatives of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), TASS, Chinese media corporation CGTN-Russian, Korean Broadcasting System, Sony Middle East and Africa FZE, Turkish TV channel TRT World, news channels Russia 24, Russia Today, international TV companies Setanta Sports, Mir joined the conference online.
The media forum also discussed the role of national culture and art and mass media in pursuing a policy of progressive reforms, popularizing the country’s historical and cultural monuments and communicating the rich heritage of the Turkmen people to future generations. The participants listened to reports on the main areas of tourism development in Turkmenistan, measures taken to preserve the unique architecture of the past, intensification of work on greater exposure of the country’s achievements over the years of independence through foreign television channels.
Development of mass media and professional training of journalists was discussed at a briefing for media representatives on the topic “Young Journalist and the Epoch” that took place at the Mary Regional Library, where an exhibition of books and arts and crafts was also set up.
One of the main goals of the art festival is to encourage representatives of the cultural sector to grow professionally, produce new works of art and identify new talents. That is why the program of the forum prioritized the events with participation of young talents, including winners of the children’s art contest “Journey through Ancient Merv” that aimed to identify and promote talents among the younger generation, as well as popularize folk decorative arts and artistic crafts. More than 50 boys and girls took part in the contest, presenting their works in five nominations: painting, graphics, sculpture, ceramics, tapestry.
Students of the art educational establishments of the country – young musicians, dancers, singers and readers – had the opportunity to perform solo concert programs. In addition, as part of the art forum, People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Atageldi Garyagdyev conducted a master class on the art of vocals for students and teachers of the Mary Special Music School.
The Week of Culture finished on June 27, when the Day of Workers of Culture and Art, as well as Magtymguly Fragi’s poetry was widely celebrated throughout the country. On this day, the participants of the Week of Culture laid flowers at the monument to Magtymguly Fragi in recognition and admiration of the poetic genius of the outstanding Turkmen poet-thinker. And a big festive concert under the arches of the White Yurt of the Turkmens in the Mary region was the final chord of the art forum.
The congratulatory message of President Serdar Berdimuhamedov to the workers of culture and art and the people of independent neutral Turkmenistan was read out. And then, artists from all regions of the country presented an unforgettable artistic performance. The concert participants played in an original way the symbolic handover of the baton of the Week of Culture. It was taken by the Turkmen capital that will host in a year another festival of arts, youth and inspiration.

Ahmetdzan NURIEV

©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005