Year: 2016

The RISE Collaborative at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Bringing New Vitality to Uyghur Performance On a Tuesday evening in early 2016, American and Uyghur dancers wheeled across the rough stone floor of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. They were moving to the rhythms and countermelodies of a Uyghur ecstatic tradition: the Dolan Muqam. Building slowly from an arrhythmic introduction, high and echoing around the room, gradually this form of traditional Uyghur music emerged into a full-formed twirling dance around a taut rhythm. The sound and tense rhythms that filled the room came from the voice and resonator guitar of a single man: the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq. It was Perhat Khaliq’s first visit to the United States and after his longstanding friendship with Mukaddas Mijit, it was the first time the two had created a new work together. Of course the space was also filled by a sold-out crowd, people pressed close on carpets and chairs that surrounded the room. Uyghurs had come from all over the state. They came from Portland and Vancouver. They came to celebrate Uyghur music and dance. …

Uyghur Urbanism in Recent Modernist Poetry

  Self-Portrait in a detail of Yarmemet Niyaz’s 2013 painting “蓝色的旅律” A good while ago the anthropologist Stevan Harrell asked me to consider the unique position of Uyghurs as heirs to an urbanism that predates the rise of Chinese cities in Central Asia. He asked me to think through the ways in which this urban tradition has affected Uyghur social organization. I’m still thinking about this. Uyghur thinkers are too. They are thinking about the way new urban forms reorient their lives. They are grappling with the way certain spaces draw them in by reflecting their pasts while other forms face them with a blankness that does not allow them a way in. One of the most remarkable paintings at the first Uyghur contemporary art exhibition in 2015 was a mixed media piece in which the artist Yarmemet Niyaz inserted a small rectangular mirror onto the side of a bright blue house next to an old coal stove (Uy: mesh) that many people use in Uyghur oasis cities. The mirror interpellates the viewer. You can …

Äskär: an Independent Uyghur Musician

Recently a Uyghur intellectual told me that the most important representations of Uyghur life are in music. Literature and film are also important but because these cultural mediums have a shorter history and smaller industry among Uyghurs, music continues to be the main mode of expression that circulates beyond intellectuals and cosmopolitan urbanites into the homes of every Uyghur family. It is because of this that most Uyghurs encounter abstract cultural concepts through music and oral poetry. Since the 1980s with the introduction of the cassette and then in the late 1990s the VCD, music has become a ubiquitous form of cultural representation. Since music has such an important place in Uyghur cultural life, in this blog we have detailed the rise of pop stars such as Abdulla, Erkin, Perhat Khaliq, Ablajan and others. But these mainstream pop singers have not always been mainstream. In fact most of them owe the start of their success to an anti-pop star—the first truly urban, heavy metal Uyghur musician, the iconoclast Äskär Memet. Now in his early 50s …

Year in Review: Most Overlooked in 2015

Last week we wrote about our most popular posts written in 2015. But what about pieces from the ALCCA archive that deserved more attention then they received over the past year? For all of you readers who are new to The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, here is a list of our most overlooked pieces in 2015. Abdulla, King of Uyghur Pop: His Themes Although much can be said about the way Abdulla’s poetic voice corresponds with his deep literacy in Uyghur culture, clearly he does much more than lean on the traditions of the past.  Although this attention to cultural symbolism and spiritual ritual are an important aspect of his public persona, Abdulla is also deeply engaged in the everyday life of increasingly urban Northwest China. In order to understand the depth of his appeal, here we outline the themes which emerge from his catalog and analyze one of these themes. What It Means To Be A Uyghur Man Watching the leaked surveillance video of two men walking with a sea of …