Andakulova Gallery’s ‘Totems of Central Asia’ show steppes into ME - GulfToday

Andakulova Gallery’s ‘Totems of Central Asia’ show steppes into ME

Andakulova 2

Almagul Menlibayeva’s Untitled 2 work from the series My Silk Road to You.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Andakulova Gallery, Dubai, in partnership with Freedom Finance Corp. is presenting Totems of Central Asia, an exhibition which brings together the works of three artists from Central Asia - Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan), Dilyara Kaipova (Uzbekistan) and Said Atabekov (Kazakhstan).

It will be open at Foundry Downtown Dubai, till September 1.  The show, besides highlighting the works of Menlibayeva, Kaipova and Atabekov, also offers their NFTs. 

The focus of the project is Central Asia - a unique geopolitical and cultural region, heir to ancient civilisations and the fabled Silk Road - which was mainly excluded from the international context during much of the 20th century.

The region, however, has survived utopias of social experimentation, the collapse of States, besides environmental catastrophes of modern times.


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Today, the art of the region in many international art spaces and aspects can be said to be represented by artists such as the artists being presented. Their works are an unusual combination of tradition and innovation; the phenomenon of their originality is rooted in the very genius loci where they hail from.  One will form an idea of the contemporary art of the fabulous past centuries of this “terra incognita” via Totems, which allows him to immerse himself in the hoary world of the inhabitants of the nomadic steppes amidst the blaze of legendary ancient cities.

“Totems of Central Asia” is the result of a study of issues of globalisation and identity that are relevant for the region – and the world – since it investigates issues such as the preservation of national traditions, adaptation to the new global world order, and perhaps the temptations of Western standards.

The title of the exhibition refers to the concept of the totem, which was and is, present in traditional societies. A totem is a spiritual being with a life of its own; it is a sacred object, an object of worship and a symbol that serves as the emblem of a group of people, a family or a tribe.

Andakulova 1 Almagul Menlibayeva creates bold metaphors in her artwork.

In Central Asia, in the past and as in the present, people attribute supernatural powers to totems – their presence could make people tremble and fear as much as they are in awe of them and revere them!

The artists work at the intersection of ancient and modern mythologies, combining magical rituals and symbols of modern society.

Kaipova turns to local methods of artistic production (ikat), creating specialised robes, with the inclusion of symbols of mass culture.  Her approach is connected both with traditional textiles and with the expression of identity in the context of post-colonial discourse.  Videos and photos of Atabekov, in which hundreds of people on the move are involved, such as crowds of nomads, not only rouse admiration for the ritual games of the ancient era, but also makes you think about games on a much more universal scale.

The use of digital photography techniques and print techniques allows Menlibayeva to create bold metaphors for the environmental problem.  She reflects on the junction of tradition and resistance and the language of advertising, and the images and cliches of glossy magazines.

“My educational background, she has said, “is in the Soviet Russian avant-garde school of Futurism, which I combine with a nomadic aesthetic of post-Soviet, contemporary Kazakhstan … I explore a shared cultural psychic experience, which manifests itself as a specific thought-form among the people(s) of the ancient, arid and dusty Steppes between the Caspian Sea, Baikonur and Altai in today’s Kazakhstan.”

“Totems of Central Asia” is an understanding of what globalisation means in the context of Central Asia, a land which is undergoing tremendous social and political change.  It enables the viewer to empathise with the thoughts of Central Asian artists about modernity, to understand their sensitivity to the sacred traditions of their people, as well as enjoy their originality and disconnection to accepted standards.

Andakulova Gallery is a contemporary art gallery whose objective is to promote Central Asia’s visual arts.  It serves as a platform to exhibit and support emerging to established contemporary artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (or the ‘Stans’) across a variety of media.

Founded by Natalya Andakulova, it seeks to cultivate a dialogue between Central Asia and the Middle East, by re-introducing the art of the ‘Stans’ to the artistic hub of Dubai.

Foundry is a hybrid progressive art space founded as a response to the evolving cultural scene in the UAE. It is a collaborative open work space consisting of a podcast studio, micro library, cafe, besides surrounding gallery spaces. It aims to offer Dubai’s community and the global art world, “the opportunity to thrive, connect, communicate and exhibit.”

A comprehensive programme of exhibitions, commissions, workshops, talks and film screenings, brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural events to the communities of Dubai, the UAE and the wider region.

Freedom Finance Corp. provides financial services, retail brokerage, investment advisory, securities trading, investment banking and underwriting services in 13 countries worldwide.  It provides access to trading on American and European stock exchanges, including the IPO market, with leading positions on the brokerage markets in Kazakhstan (No. 1 by the number of accounts opened) and Russia (No. 9 by the number of accounts opened). The shares of the Corp. are listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market and are also included in the official list of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE).

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