January 27th at IU East, Richmond
“Discovering Central Asia,” a Nuruz-esque night of performances, food, and friendship. The theme was the cultures of Central Asia including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang, and Mongolia. While the IAUNRC does work with schools and faculty all over the country, such large-scale events at other campuses are very rare.
Thankfully, because of Dr. Kristoffer Rees who is a new professor of Political Science at IUE, and was a former graduate student at the IAUNRC, the opportunity for collaboration was pulled together. The event itself required weeks of organization, but it was clear that the audience enjoyed the performances as the FLTA’s and IU students enjoyed being able to share their cultures with them.
Things got underway at 4:30 PM in the Vivian Auditorium. Cultural displays and discussions with the performers in the Meijer Artway followed the main event. Dinner was held in the Whitewater Lobby and included manti, samsa, ganfan, plov, bursak, and nan. Dinner performances were given by Kathleen Kuo and Amita Vempati.
The keynote speech, “Introducing Central Asia,”was given by Gulnisa Nazarova, the professor of Uyghur language at IU. Because of her extensive travels and diverse background within the region, Gulnisa was able to give basic facts about the various countries and territories, as well as information about regional foods and music with an emphasis on the shared histories and cultures within the region.
The FLTA’s, with the help of IU students Jewher Ilham and Kathleen Kuo, performed dances, plays, poems, and songs from their respective cultures.Many of these performances went above and beyond simply showing how these arts are performed that included basic dance lessons, audience participation, and explanations of the regional singularities of certain performances and their symbolism. The performances were, first, a Kyrgyz interpretation of “The Nightingale and the King” performed by Atibubu Abdyibraeva (Kyrgystan) and Dilnoza Kadirova (Uzbekistan). Next was a Uyghur dance, “Rozilam,” performed by Jewher Ilham. Saulet Alpysbayeve, from Kazakhstan, performed a Khazak poem and dancetitled, “Kyz Kyligy,” that highlights the grace and beauty of a Kazakh girl.An Uzbek dance, “Lazgi,” that is unique to a region of Uzbekistan called Khwarazm,was performed by Dilnoza Kadirova. “Yunden Googoo,” which talks about a handsome Mongolian man,and the Mongolian Buryat Yohor Circle Dance, was performed by Gerelmaa Altangerel (Mongolia) and Kathleen Kuo from Indiana University.
IU students provided background music for the dinner. Their musical choices came not only from the countries represented during the performances, but also from other countries in the region of Central Eurasia like Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. Their performances were largely of folk and popular songs that they performed a cappella or on the violin and piano.
IU East’s Den did a wonderful job of capturing the flavors of Central Asia with foods like plov (a rice dish) and somsa (a baked dumpling), which are difficult to come across in the United States. Even Gulnisa, herself an excellent chef, commented that the foods were very delicious!
The event was sponsored by the Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center, IU East’s School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Mindful Explorations, and the IU East Diversity Committee.