Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Quiet Celebration

Well, Sept 1st is the 20th Anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence. There are signs up everywhere, huge posters plastered over walls and as I walk home after an evening get together at The Matter. I pass a huge electronic billboard with flags waving and the national emblem flashing in dazzling LED brightness powerful enough to light a large film studio. On this evening of celebration the streets are curiously empty - a bit like Helsinki 20 years ago when quiet summer nights meant that most of the urban population had retreated into their summer cottages. I couldn't help wondering where every body was on this celebratory evening in Tashkent.

It was the end of my fifth day here - a day spent wandering around the Alayskiy Bazaar just around the corner. This concrete covered market was quiet in the late morning heat - the traders seemed amused to see where I pointed my camera - small clusters of fruit - a cup balanced on a small wooden board; strange designs with familiar fruits and vegetables.

As their curiosity increased, we began to talk - neither of us understanding the other and ending in laughs as I took their portraits.

A woman high up in her pulpit preached the virtues of her goods - her full set of bright gold teeth shining through an infectious broad smile. She spoke a little English - said 'I have relatives who live in America!' I took many pictures of her as she laughed and chatted.

It was here that I met the Tashkent poet Akbar Aliev, with a mountain bike buying vegetables. He came up to me; spoke fluent English - and after we had spoken a few words together casually said 'You can use my picture if you want to - in Finland - you can publish it - anywhere.'

Akbar Aliev - Tashkent poet

I copied his name down - spelt it wrong and later found a poem translated in English.

To Aristotle
Like an ant who uneasily acquires knowledge
Under His knowledge's light many mainlands are bright
And who hides his heart from knowledge's light
He is the single ruler in the wild of night.

On the way out we stopped by a bread shop and I made this 2 minute video with Hasan having a go!

Of Bazaars and Birthdays

It seems quite impossible to get to bed in Tashkent much before 5am. What with taxi trips to the airport to pick up friends arriving at 2am - getting back into the city - having a welcome drink and a chat, I've never really reached my pillow before the sun has started to rise.

On Tuesday, Kristiina, Julji and I headed into Chorzu bazaar via the metro. At the entrance to the station our bags were checked and passports and visa's inspected and a clear message that pictures are not allowed. This was my second time at Chorzu - and a chance to look around again and have time on my own. It takes a while to find your way into quiet corners and find the intimacy you need to make connections with the people in such bustling environments. In one of the clothing malls, away from the burning sun I found myself being invited into small boutiques, left alone to browse around; the vendors quite happy to be photographed.

Later in the afternoon we went to some friends of Rene's - a house near Brakit where the workshop was held - old streets with wonderful houses hidden behind tall walls and steel doors. By now we are 7 with Rene, Christian, Kristiina, Julji, Hassan, Reudi, and myself forming the main group including at least for a day or so still, Edgars and Janis - from Latvia.




The party was for Ayouma - 23 and we sat around the yard eating, drinking and dancing until late.