Tag Archives: Mukhtar Shakhanov

Kazakhstan: Artist Targeted in Crackdown

2 Feb

Kazakhstan’s crackdown on dissent, which has been unfolding since an ‘unsanctioned’ opposition rally in Almaty on 28 January, has seen performance artist Kanat Ibragimov hauled in to stand trial alongside well-known opposition figures such as Bolat Abilyov, Mukhtar Shakhanov and Gulzhan Yergaliyeva.

Kanat Ibragimov screams for democracy in Almaty on 28 January 2012

Kanat Ibragimov, unlike Bolat Abilov, escaped a prison sentence and was given a fine for daring to take to the podium and call for democracy. In the generally grey world of Kazakh politics, Kanat cuts a colourful figure with his history of protest actions. He posits himself on the side of art rather than politics, but his activities carry an edge that never fails to needle the authorities.

A panda meets an untimely end at the hands of Kanat Ibragimov, Almaty, January 2010

Kazaxia first came across Kanat at a rally in January 2010. The demonstration was protesting Chinese expansionism into Kazakhstan and Kanat’s response was to symbolically decapitate a toy panda. Other actions he has initiated include ‘A Fish Rots from the Head Down‘ in which he savages a fish with an axe on Almaty’s Republic Square. I wonder who the ‘head’ could refer to here?

While Astana can cope with any amount of shouting and barracking from the podium by the usual suspects, Kanat Ibragimov’s humour is an approach that the stilted grey men are ill-equipped to deal with. Fines and prison sentences will only spur this performance artist onto greater things.

Kazakhstan: The vexed question of language

8 Oct

There’s not too many issues that can get the people of Kazakhstan hot under the collar – the threat of Chinese expansion is one that springs to mind, another is the use of right-hand drive cars – but one sure-fire issue that can guarantee a good turnout at a rally is the vexed question of language.

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Kazakh, the state and official language, still struggles to claim a dominant role in the country, with Russian still in widespread use in many spheres.

Last Sunday, October 2, around 1500 people turned up in warm, sunny conditions to protest in favour of the Kazakh language, with some calling for a clause in the constitution that gives Russian equal status for use in state bodies to be dropped.

The usual suspects were out in force from the world of nationalist politics and literature. Two hours of speeches ensued broken up by some poetry and performance by a boy-band. The age profile of the demo was predominantly the over 50s with a few families hanging around. Slavic features were conspicuous by their absence in the crowd.

Maybe if the organisers want to get their message to a wider audience, instead of speechifying from the stage they should try some new approaches. How about a rap competition in Kazkah or a poetry slam to appeal to young people? Piles of Kazakh language newspapers were scattered about for people to take home but what about some DVDs or books for kids – the next generation which can ensure the survival of Kazakh.

Refreshments were also absent from the proceedings – another missed opportunity – the crowd could have been fed with baursaki – fried dough balls – swilled down with kymys – fermented mares’ milk – provided it was ordered in Kazakh!