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Project about sacred places in Central Asia; activities in many countries, initiated by the Soros Centre, Almaty.
Mar 2004

With this project on sacred architectural sites and landscapes in Central Asia, initiated and organized by the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Almaty (Kazakhstan), an opportunity is provided to examine and reflect upon the unique diversity of religions and beliefs which peacefully coexist in the region, using contemporary forms of expression and the new media. To accomplish this events and activities are being held at various venues – a theory seminar in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), a workshop for video and a grant competition in Almaty, a video festival in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).

In Central Asia, the memory of religious beliefs from the past remains alive, for instance, Pantheism, sun-worship, Mithraism (initiated in the 14th century based on an Indo-Iranian goddess), fire-worship, Nestorians (from the patriarch of Constantinople, 428-431), or Tengriasm (cult of the sky practices by the ancient Turks). These still exist in part, parallel to Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, Russian Orthodoxy, and faiths that are more recent.

The shrines of any faith are prominently situated or follow certain rules (Christian churches face East, mosques face Mecca). The mountain of Suleiman-Too (Solomon’s throne) in the over 3,000 year-old ancient city of Osh (Kyrgyzstan) has been considered holy since the bronze period and was long an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Mithra shrines are located under open skies and surrounded by cliffs (for instance the Tamgala Gorge near Almaty). Animal totems were worshiped in caves such as those in the Gorno-Badakhshansky district, in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. The Buddhist temples of the Uigur people are also remarkable.

In times of increasing religious conflict and terrorist acts, the organizers considered it especially important that such a project should emphasize the peaceful coexistence of various religions and draw attention to the few known holy shrines and landscape of Central Asia.

Events 2004:

15 - 19 March, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Theory seminar: The sacred places of Central Asia.
50 participants from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. Tutors from the USA and the Central Asian region.
19 - 23 April, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Training "How to do video art?"
40 participants from the Central Asian region. Tutors from Russia and the Central Asian region.
5 April - 30 August, Almaty, Kazakhstan
"Videoidentity" Grant Competition for Central Asian artists. International jury from the Central Asian region.
16 - 20 October, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Festival "Videoidentity".
International jury from the Central Asian region, Germany, and Great Britain.
November - December, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Video documentation of festival, master-tape production and distribution.

(Compiled from a text provided by the organizer and information collected from other sources)

March - December 2004
in various locations in the Central Asian region

Soros Center for Contemporary Art,
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Valeria Ibraeva

Aliya Sharipbayeva

Soros Center for Contemporary Art

171 Tulebayeva

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