Human, Khujand

River and sociality

The river encourages multiple and unique forms of both public and covert sociality.  Historical sources point out that the river bank has long been the favoured location for conducting business and pastime among Hujandis. Local men would frequent alou-khanas – the guesthouses and places for social gatherings as well as tea houses, which also served as hotels and diners for the locals where they spent many hours on the wooden platforms along the river bank.  Bath houses were also usually designated as male-only spaces, while women’s visitation of baths was significantly restricted compared to the counties of the Middle East, for instance.  

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Alternative, Shamaldy-Sai

How do Children Imagine the Underwater World?

Who lives in the waters of the Naryn river? 

We held an online drawing workshop for the children of Shamaldy-Sai. Pupils from local schools could fantasize about the underwater world. They were guided by an artist Cholpon Alamanova and organized by the local administration and school teachers. The pupils from 1st to 11th grade were free to take part in the event. Interestingly there are dolphins, whales, crabs, and other oceanic creatures drawn by young participants. The narrow and cold river doesn’t have any of these. Children’s drawings can be seen here. 

Non-Human, Shamaldy-Sai

Other Living Beings

There are scorpions, snakes and lizards in the dry and hot semi-arid zone of Shamaldy-Sai. Old residents remember how they hunted for large varans, which in recent years disappeared and were placed on the list of highly endangered species

There are a lot of mosquitoes and in the summer the locals use a net – “pashakana” around the trestle beds to ward off mosquitoes.

Fishing in Shamaldy-Sai is more of a hobby than a livelihood. Men fish at the “Nachalka/Nachalo” – the beginning of the canal that comes out of the Naryn and flows through Shamaldy-Sai. As a rule, only men and youths go fishing, making it a highly gendered leisure activity.

Naryn, Non-Human

Bridges of Naryn

The Naryn and Syr Darya bridges we have now are not spectacular. They are not celebrated like the San Francisco Golden Gate or other famous bridges. These roads over rivers are mostly treated like  background infrastructure. And yet, a big fish monster is said to lurk under the main bridge in Naryn town. Right next to the road bridge,  a foot-bridge has been cobbled together with boards and girders slung across the wild Naryn waters below. Ladies with bags of shopping pick their way across what local people call a ‘devil’s bridge’. 

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Human, Naryn

Naryn is water-rich, Naryn is water-poor?

‘Water is the Source of Life’

It is not only all over Central Asia that one can hear people exclaiming ‘Water is the Source of Life’. Along the Naryn river in Kyrgyzstan, one can often see such slogans decorating the protective walls around drinking-water infrastructure or irrigation – as here. You can find some people being very careful not to spit or spill soap into water-courses, while other people find the embankment of the local canal a really good place to wash their car or spring-clean their carpets. With more cars and carpets washed by the river, will Naryn be richer or poorer?

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Beginnings 2019, Human

Message in a Bottle

Photography by Toma Peiu, Luiza Pârvu

River Flows is a photographic series capturing everyday landscapes from the Aral Sea basin. The Naryn-Syr Darya flows down from the high mountains on Kyrgyzstan through the Fergana Valley and then into the Kazakh steppe, towards the North Aral Sea. 

In these images captured in 2018, we seek to capture the relation between this body of water, the people and landscapes that it connects.

This series is a “message in a bottle” between Shamaldy-Say (Kyrgyzstan) on the Naryn river; Kyzylorda and Birlik (Kazakhstan) on the Syr Darya; Aral (Kazakhstan) and Muynaq (Qaraqalpaqstan, Uzbekistan), the two port towns that used to lie on the shores of the sea. We hope that it inspires new conversations between these communities and the geographical and cultural legacy that connects them.

Shamaldy-Sai, Kyrgyz Republic. April 2018

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Alternative, Kazaly

Reed Economy of the River Delta

Common reed plays an important role in local people’s livelihoods and economy in the Syr Darya Delta. Summer reed is used for forage and is known as pshen in a local dialect. Winter reed is tied into tight bundles and is used for building houses and erecting fences. Winter reed bundles are called pashyn or shom. Many people tend to think of reed as a material of the past. Reed is not appreciated as much as it used to. For example, the owners of houses built with reed cannot get a loan, many people opt for bricks or metal when building houses or erecting fences. Such a change is seen as a sign of “development”. At the same time in “developed” countries eco-friendly reed houses are valued more than brick or metal buildings. This gallery shows the role of reed in the everyday life of delta communities and tries to make a claim that common reed holds great potential for becoming a building material of the future.

Reed is a winter feed for livestock
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