Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little World - Steppe-ing into Kazakhstan

My Kazakh date never showed up yesterday morning. But his replacement did...40 minutes late.

So while waiting, I browsed a coffee table book on Kazakh art. The first thing that struck me was the different energies that exuded from works of male versus female artists. Firstly, the subjects of choice by male artists were typically men at war and skillful hunters - all on horseback. I cannot forget the picture of a warrior whose body turned towards the back ever so slightly that no one would notice a little bow readied at waist-level with a tensed arrow, will soon be released on some poor bloke who is giving chase. It was a picture of strengh, of skillful horsemenship and most of all, of a warrior's cunning. The obsession with muscles, chiselled with care, on these male images and on the horses were hard to miss. The women artists painted women who were just lying there, swooned, in a clearly, anti-climatic expression. The somewhat lack of 'Yin' energies were compensated with vibrant colours and meticulous detail - but still, the 'connection' with the painting remains lost.

A photograph on the wall simply took my breath away - large eagles with wings spanning several meters were flying alongside their masters on horseback against the backdrop of snow-blanketed steppes. This traditional art of hunting with eagles is called 'berkutchy,' practiced by professional hunters, an inherited profession. I was immediately seduced by the romance of these wild lands. It is the people and the living arts that they survive, that flames the fire of romance and adds character to the vast landscape. This is exactly what's missing in the 'barren' outbacks of Australia, which explains why the movie, named after the country, failed miserably, in romancing cinema-goers. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were simply not children of the outbacks, and no amount of good acting will make them one.

I did not hear hoof steps when my replacement date arrived. Wearing trousers, shirt and tie, he looked very much an urban Asian on his way to work. When I demanded for the missing book on Kazakh dance, he apologetically said that they did not have one, and then shyly assured me that Kazakh people do like to dance. I assumed that this shyness has something to do with the male ethos that has more respect for horsemenship than say, dancing?

I also noticed that we share the same oriental features. No wonder he agreed to meet me! I could actually pass off as a Kazakh girl - as long as I keep my mouth shut and continue swooning.

No comments: