Naryn-Syr Darya

Welcome to river worlds! On this website, we invite you to meet some old river acquaintances and see them with new eyes.


The Naryn and Syr Darya rivers are among the greatest wonders of Central Asia.

Springing from Tian Shan glaciers, the Naryn river threads a course between mountain pastures and big dams. The river continues its 3000 kilometer-long journey to the Aral Sea as the Syr Darya, touching agricultural oases, ancient cities, and semi-deserts.

These beautiful rivers feed up to half the region’s population with water for growing crops or electricity. But most of the time, Syr Darya communities feel angry about not enough water reaching them, or worry about the water quality.

This exhibition was created by a Kyrgyz-Uzbek-German team of anthropologists to celebrate a watercourse that is too often ignored. 

This virtual exhibition allows you to playfully explore three story threads: human experiences with the Naryn and Syr Darya, how non-human beings interact with the rivers and what kind of alternative river life we can imagine. These threads connect five locations along the course of the Naryn and Syr Darya rivers – from its source to the delta.

The stories of how humans and other beings like fish experience the river are closely interconnected. Paying attention to these connections can help us understand how dramatically river life has changed, and what kind of river futures we might fear or hope for.

Learning about the many secret faces of the river we share could help us find new ways to connect with this transboundary river – and with each other.

This online exhibition is built on live exhibition, which was held in Naryn in 2019. It was further developed based on research projects conducted by our team in the region. The exhibition is rooted in social science research and aims to inform and stimulate public debate about the state of these vital water-ways. For more detail on the science behind the artwork please see here.

We hope you enjoy the journey and would love to hear from you on our Facebook and Instagram spaces.