Europe Seen by the Man from Uzbekistan

Issue #3-4 • 1141

Photo exhibition under this title took place between June 12 and July 31 2007 in the Fine Arts Gallery of Uzbekistan. It comprised a number of cultural projects organized by the embassies of some EU countries in Uzbekistan, with financial support from the British Council. Everything started with a contest, the winner of which, a well-known Uzbek photographer Shavkat Boltaev, got an opportunity to make a trip around Europe. The exhibition in Tashkent is the first in the series of prospective expositions under the project.

The exhibition title is self-explanatory. Traveling around Europe, Boltaev recorded the most typical moments in the life of Europeans with his camera lenses. Over 25 days of travel through nine countries (Bulgaria, Czechia, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Great Britain, France, Italy and Belgium) the photographer made about 2,000 shots. One hundred of them were presented at the exhibition. The author visited rural areas, small villages and big cities. His pictures reflect contemporary lifestyle of all social segments in the European countries.

One of the most important tasks of the European embassies, in the cultural plane, is to give an idea of how people live in the countries that are members of the European Union. Naturally, Germany prides itself upon Bach and Goethe. France has Moliere and Hugo; Great Britain has Turner and Shakespeare; Italy – Leonardo da Vinci and Puccini… The perception of Uzbekistan cannot be limited to the Great Silk Road alone. Italy is not only the Leaning Tower of Pisa; neither is Great Britain a Big Ben. France does not only have Tour d’Eiffel, and Germany is something more than Neuschwanstein castle.

Besides, it was important to know the opinion about Europe of someone with a detached eye. Europeans believe that they can tell the difference between Europeans better and are proud of it, yet our purpose was to have a non-European find Europe’s common denominator in order to determine what they have in common and what makes them different from people living in other countries. For this reason we abandoned the idea of asking Europeans to send us photos by E-mail. It was decided that the pictures should be taken by a representative from Uzbekistan. Due to his ideas of what to look for in Europe, Boltaev was chosen among Uzbek photographers who participated in the project. The choice was also guided by the quality of photographs he published earlier. His new pictures are the evidence of his professionalism as photo artist, and we were happy to work together with him.

Boltaev’s pictures demonstrate that the EU in not only a political alliance, but also a cultural space with traditions of different nations. The pictures show not only manifestations of cultural diversity that exists in Europe where people speak different languages, have different lifestyles and different historical roots; they also prove that the representatives of EU countries share similar fundamental values. Thus, the project has confirmed that in addition to economic and political borders there is also a kind of uniting force that makes the European Union one whole entity.

At first it seemed that to realize the idea of sending a photographer on a trip around Europe with a task to return with his own impressions would be easy. The reality, however, proved much more complicated than it was anticipated. The primary issue was financing that was provided by the British Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. Then it was necessary to deal with organizational matters: Who is going? Where? When?… And how to get from A to B?… And so on. All these issues, fortunately, were resolved.

Shavkat Boltaev formulated his impressions of the project as follows:
‘I would also call the “Europe Seen by the Man from Uzbekistan” Project “Rapprochement”; firstly, because the countries of Europe are uniting, and secondly, because it is also our country coming closer to Europe. When, based on the results of the contest, they announced that I was chosen to implement the project, I began to search for a concept to dwell upon. For me it was important to show the fact that the nations of Europe are coming closer, creating the European Union.

As early as in school I was fascinated by the history and culture of European nations and preoccupied with the question of how developed European countries such as Germany, UK, France, Italy and Belgium could coexist with former socialist countries. In the course of implementing the project I realized that these powerful states want to unite with the new EU members and help each other become stronger and consolidate. This aspiration is evident everywhere.

The most important thing I understood is that all people want to live in peace and do good things; they want to communicate with people of other countries. They respect history, culture and religion of their own, as well as of the other nations. People from many countries of the world live side by side with Europeans.

The project gave me an opportunity to know these peoples more intimately. I have acquired many friends in Europe.’

Renate Quelle (Germany)

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