Category Archives: Non-Human

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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Beginnings 2019, Non-Human

Tanais and Tal

“Tanais and Tal” 

This book tells the story of the water being Tanais and her love for Tal, a willow tree that grows on the river bank. One day Tanais wakes up and cannot find her beloved Tal in her usual place. Tanais sets out in search of her: she flows long distances, resisting people who want to divert her to irrigate their rice fields. She encounters friends, meets reed beds and finally meets a little girl. The girl tells her that Tal could not have run away, since trees cannot walk. What happens next to Tanais, overwhelmed by grief?

(In Russian)

Beautifully illustrated by Deniz Nazarova, “Tanais and Tal” was written for the river exhibition by children’s author and social scientist Altyn Kapalova.

A video version of this tale is available in Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Russian (see our YouTube channel)

Kazaly, Non-Human

Tiger and Catfish

The Syr Darya has been an indispensable source of livelihoods for local tribes living along its banks. At the same time, the mighty and unpredictable waters of the river inspired artists, singers, and storytellers. For example, the local songs and legends tell about local people, animals of the Syr Darya, as well as about the river itself.

Tiger and catfish 

(a folk tale from the Syr Darya Delta)

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Beginnings 2019, Non-Human

Virtual water

Toma Serban Peiu, Alice Hill


The animation is a representation of water leaving the Aral Sea basin by way of “virtual water” – water used in goods that were exported between 1960 and 2016.  For the animation, we focused on cotton because it is a globally exported product.  So each of the ‘lasers’ in the animation is 1 cubic kilometer of water that leaves the basin as a result of the water taken to grow the cotton that was exported. The idea was to track the water “migration” and to see if human migration rates mimic the pattern

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Beginnings 2019, Kazaly, Naryn, Non-Human, Shamaldy-Sai

Aral Sea Stories and the River Naryn

Peter Cusack

The recordings in this exhibition are part of a project entitled “Aral Sea Stories and the River Naryn”. It concerns the disappearance and partial restoration of the Aral Sea in Central Asia since the 1960s. Because The River Naryn is one of the primary sources of water for the Aral Sea it is also vital to the story. My project focusses on the amazing variety of sounds created by the river, the sea, the surrounding environment and the people who live in these areas. It asks the question, “What can we learn of water uses and abuses by listening to their sounds?” and follows the stories and directions suggested.

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