Gabriele from Lithuania wrote to me about a @walkingalmaty tour, and I asked offhand if she cpuld bring me some books about Lithuanian stained glass - Baltic artists were considered the masters of this amazing medium in the Soviet Union. Even though I wasn’t able in the end to provide Gabriele a tour, she still sent me a package with these amazing books! Wow! Thank you!
The original Kazakhstani mosaic! Went to check out the zellige-style ornamental mosaics on the Yassawi Mausoleum in Turkistan.
In Shymkent, we met the artist Uzukbai Koshkenbaev, perhaps the most prolific mosaicist in South Kazakhstan. In addition to creating works in Zhetisai, Shardara, Kyzylorda and Taraz, Koshkenbaev designed the mosaics best known and loved by Shymkenters: mosaics on Schools #8 and #9, four mosaics on the Psychiatric Hospital, and a mosaic on Polyclinic #1 that reads “Take care of our cultural heritage!”, which is a great slogan for Monumental Almaty. It’s hard to say which mosaic is his masterwork - the ensemble on Taraz State University’s Palace of Youth is the largest mosaic in Kazakhstan, at more than 800 square meters, but I particularly love his mosaics at the hospital. They’re collectively titled “Seasons of the Year,” and they show how nomadic life changed with the calendar. In winter, you can see a man with his hunting eagle, and nomads huddled in a yurt telling stories, while in summer you can see women making qymyz (fermented horse milk) and playing music to celebrate life and abundance. Uzukbai-aga showed us his old album with photos from when the mosaics were made in 1981 (they were his first). Almost forty years later, they’re just as full of color and spirit.
Our first big discovery of art in the repousee or embossed metal medium, known as chekanka.
This morning we were amazed by what we found in Shymkent: the Phosphor Workers’ Palace of Culture (ДК Фосфорников) is a treasure trove of Soviet monumental art. Mosaic fountains, stained glass, relief sculptures, repousee and carved wood...it’s got everything. The reliefs were made in 1982 by the Shymkent artists Dauren Aldekov and Nasyr Rustemov, and the dalle de verre windows by an artist named Ivanov. Now the building is abandoned, the ceiling flaking, puddles on the floor. Shymkenttikter and Kazakhstanis, shouldn’t this place be saved? @visit_shymkent_kz THIS SHOULD BE A TOURIST ATTRACTION!
This week I’m welcoming new fans from the @calvertjournal, who featured an interview about Monumental Almaty with some great photos from Philipp Dippl, @phareast. Stay tuned!
Monumental Almaty featured today in The Guardian!
“Monumental Kazakhstan” begins! I’ve documented almost every mosaic and monumental artwork in Almaty for @monumentalalmaty, and now I’m looking to find every Soviet mural in the country! I need your help, though. I’ve made a map of every mosaic I’ve found so far, and in March I’ll travel around the country to photograph as many as I can. Send me a DM with information about any mosaics, bas-reliefs, stained glass, sgraffitos or murals in your town, and let’s try to document this art before it disappears!
Excuse the absence, I’ve been doing traveling this winter with @winternomads. Still on the mosaic trail, though: here with a work by the great Juan O’Gorman in Mexico City 🇲🇽