Preserving and developing epic heritage of Kyrgyz people, 2011-2013

In the course of our extensive research in the field of traditional knowledge, close cooperation with the bearers and practitioners and proactive participatory observation, the Aigine CRC identified peculiarities, achievements and challenges that stipulate the current state of epic heritage and epic bearers in Kyrgyz society and made certain attempts to address them.

In the years since independence, the importance and value of epic knowledge became paramount in the midst of an ardent quest for a new ideology and an ongoing political struggle. However, it is quite sad to acknowledge that in the face of such quest most often we stop paying attention to those processes happening with the bearers of traditional knowledge and changes happening in the minds of local people and in their relationship towards each other. Breakdown of the Soviet system, state independence followed by a shift to market economy and struggle for survival placed the cultural and spiritual values into the back seat. Traditional synergies in society preserving traditional knowledge and values were lost. In particular, a gap between the general public and bearers of traditional epic knowledge grew immensely. Physical and, most importantly,spiritual bonds between them was lost, which become one of the main challenges in preserving and developing the oral epic heritage. Manaschys of the previous generation would travel from village to village reciting the epic and enchanting the listeners from kids to grown-ups, who could listen for hours and hours. However, the situation today is quite different, epic reciters are not always able to travel from one place to another on a regular basis and the listeners are not always willing to listen for a long time. There are more than a dozen manaschys today; however, not all of them are known to general public, except for a few, who are regularly broadcasted on TV. It is not a surprise that in today’s society, advancement of technology and communication has replaced face-to-face interaction. Therefore, the initiative of creating the first and full video compilation of the Manas epic with participation of contemporary epic reciters became one of the main options to restore the gap between the audience and manaschys. The video discs were accompanied with a small brochure containing information on each manaschy. The video compilation is unique and effective because it accomplishes several tasks at the same – safeguarding and propagation of epic knowledge; as well as, using it for educational, healing and recreation purposes and for conducting research. We have been receiving many comments, feedback, gratitude letters and criticism both, from local people, and international scholars.