Key Trends in the Monumental Sculpture of Karakalpakstan during the Independence Period
The process of establishing the ideological priorities of the young independent state and the need to promote the idea of national identity have increased the import and relevance of monumental art in Uzbekistan at large. In Karakalpakstan, the enthusiasm of building a new society, rooted in re-conceptualizing an extensive stratum of cultural, spiritual and moral values, manifested itself most vividly in monumental sculpture.
Monumental art does not exist outside of architecture. Thus, the intense urban development in the second half of the 1990s and the emergence of new public buildings and squares as a result of political and social transformations in the country prompted the creation of a whole range of monumental works. This has galvanized the search for new plastic means of expression in monumental sculpture and at the same time identified the problem of synthesis between architecture and monumental art. There evolved an urban development trend to strengthen the plastic expression of the building architectonics by way of developing adjacent squares with ideologically meaningful memorials, monuments, alleys, parks and gardens. To develop new memorial complexes, architects and monumental sculptors have been offered buildings with predominant monolithic structures of reinforced concrete frames from the previous period, as well as new office buildings in contemporary style with tinted glass windows. Monumental sculptors, being actively involved in shaping the aesthetic look of the modern city, have successfully collaborated with architects.
One example of turning to the historical memory of great compatriots, thinkers and poets is a monument to Ajiniaz Kosybay uly (1824-1878), the most prominent representative of the XIX century Karakalpakstan literature; the monument was erected in Nukus in 2002. Ajiniaz was educated in madrasah, mastered several languages, had an excellent knowledge of history and poetic oral tradition that is closely connected to music; he was familiar with oriental poetry, traveled far beyond Karakalpakstan and taught the children in Kazakh steppes to read and write. Poet Ajiniyaz enriched Karakalpak versification, bringing it to a new level. Apart from creating his own original pieces, Ajiniyaz translated the works of Makhtumkuli into Karakalpak language.
The monument to Ajiniyaz is designed by sculptor Bakhtiyar Saipov, made of bronze and mounted on a wide cubic pedestal. Under the project of architect Kari Molotov the monument has been installed in a broad square connecting a park, sports arena, and the new building of the Savitsky Art Museum. The sculpture looks equally expressive from different points of observation: in full-face and in profile. The overall sculpture volume fits into a stable pyramidal shape, communicating the spiritual power and nobility of the image of the poet and democrat. The author has offered a wonderful rendition of the poet’s portrait: he gazes into the unknown distance, immersed in the world of poetic images that seem to be coming out of remote centuries to be the asset of the contemporaries.
The monument is symbolic, as the sculptor has been able to create the metaphoric image of a sage. Poet Ajiniyaz is shown dressed in national costume. His posture is characteristic of bakhsy, the folk songwriters: in his left hand he holds a duutar, with the instrument’s body propped against his thigh. Ajiniyaz seems to be inviting his visitors to listen to his pieces and the wisdom of the centuries-old folklore. The monument’s inauguration has fulfilled the objective of defining the architectural appearance of the central square – the place for cultural entertainment and leisure in the capital city, bringing together the buildings, the park and the monument into a single ensemble.
A vivid example of cherishing the national epic heritage is a monument to a legendary hero Edige – the real historical figure (1340-1420). His name is used in “Edige”, the famous heroic epic of the Karakalpak people, as a tribute to his deeds. The monument was installed in 2003 at the entrance to Ak-Mangyt, the center of Nukus District. The sculpture (concrete, bronze coating) is made on the design of sculptor Darmenbai Pirnazarov and mounted on a trapezoid pedestal covered with white marble tiles. The colour solution of the monument is in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
The composition of the sculpture fits into the stable form of a pyramid, expressing the idea of a dedicated person with spiritual power and strength of a hero, batir. The sculpture finely and accurately conveys the hero’s emotional motivation while showing live and mobile expressiveness of his figure: the culmination of his urge and sudden movement of his arm drawing the sword, and there is only an instant between this motion and the moment Edigeh rushes into the battle. The monolith head and a clear-cut, robust plasticity of his resolute face with piercing eyes show the integrity of his character and reveal the depth of the model’s psychological characteristic. Realistic interpretation and historical specificity of the medieval warrior’s dress and equipment – his helmet, hauberk, cloak, high boots and sword – have not prevented the sculptor from using a generalized language of sculpture, combining the psychological portrait and a collective symbolic image. The author has succeeded in artfully exposing the powerful image of the legendary hero Edigeh, and the zeal of the fearlessness epic warrior, protector of the Motherland.
The “Grieving Mother” memorial in Takhiatash was created by Bakhtiyar Saipov and installed near the park in front of the City Hall. The sculpture (concrete, bronze cover) shows a woman who aged prematurely from the pain of bereavement, and only the memory of her soldier son who fell in the battle gives her strength to live on. The woman is sitting on a low podium, with her head down and her right hand touching a veil thrown over her head; her left hand rests on her lap, holding the end of the veil she might have just used to dry her tears. This artful image of sorrow frozen is stone is amazingly noble. The remarkable work of the sculptor can be seen in the generalized interpretation of the female image in strict attire, as well as in the depth of psychological characteristics he is able to achieve when communicating Mother’s unbearable anguish. One notices the skill in modelling hands, which is something that contemporary sculptors are lacking at times.
The monument to the Grieving Mother is positioned at the centre of the memorial complex that consist of high arched brickwork compositions symbolizing a Muslim temple; behind the figure the brickwork is solid, while on the other three sides there are open arches connected by a widely spaced geometric grille. These iron grilles hold diamond-shaped medallions in traditional ornamental style, as if referring to the continuation and further development of life. Yet the grieving mother remains in the emotionally confined space, and her absent gaze betrays the impossibility to resign to the loss. A marble slab before her bears an engraved inscription: Hotira – qalb chirokidir, inson kadri bebohodir.
Another “Matamsora Ana” (“Grieving Mother”) memorial (concrete, bronze coating) in Nukus was created as a joint project of Karakalpak sculptors Daribai Tajimuratov, Zhaksybai Tulegenov, Adilbai Khojaev and Bakhtiyar Saipov. The monumental complex is installed in a wide square amidst green parks and faces the city’s central square named after A. Dosnazarov, on the way to the airport. The monument is erected on an artificial hill with three marble stairways leading to the top; thus the sculptural image looks equally expressive from any remote observation angle. The sculpture shows an elderly woman sitting on a low podium. Behind her mournful figure there rises a semicircular row of marble columns crowned by arches with the outlined shape of octagonal Muslim star – the symbol of faith. Realistically presented image of a woman in traditional costume is inspired by the tragic events in history. The stoicism of the mother shows in her bent posture, the tilt of her head and the motion of her right hand, palm touching the heart. The drama of emotional stress and anguish inflicted by the irreparable loss are communicated strongly and vividly. Spiritual greatness of this image has striking monumental power.
The “Ana” (“Mother”) memorial in Ellik-Kala is made of concrete and designed by Tolkyn Saipov. The sculpture rises in front of a circular square with symbolic Eternal Flame of Memory and is the focal point of the memorial complex. The sculpture shows a fairly young woman. Her look and facial expression are those of sorrow and grief from the very fact of war. Still, the woman is full of spirited determination and calls for a fight, her raised right hand holding a wreath – a symbol of victory and memory of the fallen heroes. Its emotional meaning is not only suffering, but also the heroic strength of the nation. The woman’s figure is inscribed in the shape of an isosceles triangle, which makes us perceive the monolith image of the heroine as one of spiritual strength. The fabric of her long dress and veil worn over her head transmits the expressive movement. Endurance and courage are expressed by the light-coloured shape against the background of red granite. The woman takes a resolute step forward, leading the nation. This symbol of Motherland is more of an allegory of Victory.
Thus, the key trend during the period of independence in Karakalpak sculpture was the creation of monumental images; it manifested itself quite clearly in easel works and was later on implemented in monumental art. The main theme has been that of historical memory of the great leaders and thinkers of the past, the national heroes and victims of World War II.
Also quite notable is the theme of female images created by sculptor B. Saipov, which are inspired by romanticism: “Karakalpak Kizi” (“Karakalpak Girl”, 1993) and “Ana Bakhty” (“Mother’s Joy”, 1998) in Takhiatash; “Birinshi Mugallim” (“My First Teacher” 2005) in Ellik Kala, and others. Central to achieving the expressiveness of monumental sculpture has been ensemble monument, a memorial. Complex architectural and sculptural type of monument turned out to be most responsive to the idea of humanism and the creation of a new democratic society and free-spirited independent nation.
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