The University of Central Asia’s Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit (UCA CHHU) released a new short film; Kyrgyz Herders | Funeral Laments
. It highlights unique aspects of Kyrgyz history and culture and tells the story of two custodians of Kyrgyz nomadic traditions – herders and funeral lamenters (koshokchus
The film is based on the narratives of two books in UCA’s Cultural Heritage Book Series: Kyrgyz Herders of Soviet Uzbekistan: Historical and Ethnographic Narratives by Dr Elmira Köchümkulova and Mamatkerim Köchümkulov, and Respect Graces the Living, Lamentation Graces the Dead: Kyrgyz Funeral Laments and Lamenters by Köchümkulova.
“A farmer stops ploughing when it rains. A herder stops herding when he dies,” says a herder highlighting the centrality of livestock in the rhythms of Kyrgyz life. The film recounts the unique experiences of Kyrgyz herders in Soviet Uzbekistan from 1941 to 1995, including relations between nomadic Kyrgyz and sedentary Uzbeks of the Fergana valley and the role of Kyrgyz women.
Funeral laments (koshoks), one of the oldest genres of Kyrgyz oral tradition, are in danger of being lost to influences of fundamentalist Islam, rapid urbanisation and globalisation. Subtitled performances by koshokchus in the video highlight the unique tonality and complex verses of koshoks.
“To ensure our heritage is part of contemporary discussions on culture and identity we must engage with culture as a living being, practiced and adapted by people; people like these, who generously participated in this video,” said anthropologist and author Dr Elmira Köchümkulova, Head of Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit, University of Central Asia.
These publications were generously supported by The Christensen Fund and the University of Central Asia. The film is directed by Elyor Nematov.