Saodat Ismailova

"Menim ismim kim edi?"

February, 2021 — June, 2021

Saodat Ismailova

Aspan Gallery is delighted to present the first solo show in Kazakhstan by Uzbekistani artist and filmmaker Saodat Ismailova.

Saodat Ismailova is a film director and artist from Tashkent. In her works, she explores the complex identity of a Central Asian woman, through which she analyses the underlying system of myths and rituals.

The exhibition Menim ismim kim edi? started to take shape around the video Zukhra, the artist’s first such installation, that has been presented at the Central Asia Pavillion at the Venice Biennale in 2013. On the surface, the static thirty-minute video Zukhra is constructed on the audio narrative of a young woman who undertook the ritual of chilla (40 days of silence). The work culminates in the sounds of “jahr”, an exorcism ritual specific to the south of Uzbekistan, that culminates with animistic sounds uttered by a healer. The narrator is initiated and becomes a healer through this ritual. The work also reappraises the history of the previous century in Uzbekistan, giving voice to questions over the demarcation of ethnic boundaries in what had been tsarist Turkestan and its effect on people's lives.

The number forty has a special place in the Central Asian peoples' worldview and is present in many myths, rituals, names of places and structures (the most famous, perhaps, is the legend about forty girls-warriors, Qyrq Qyz). In her new installation Chiltan, consisting of neon and forty chachvans - nets for covering the female face woven from horsetails, the artist turns to the history of Uzbekistan in the 20th century, when during the political campaign xujum ("storming" or “attack”), which began in 1924 and aimed at the emancipation of women in Soviet Turkestan, chachvans covering the faces of women were publicly removed and burned. The campaign, scheduled for six months, lasted over 30 years. Planned as educational campaign in fact turned out to be violent. A now forgotten object carries a reminder of the price paid for today’s freedoms.

For many years, Saodat Ismailova has been collecting the surviving chachvans throughout Uzbekistan. Each object acts as a witness to the life of its former owner. Chachvans in the artist's collection date back to the beginning and the middle of the 20th century; today the craft of weaving such horse nets has died. The neon objects hidden behind the chachvans are female names written in three different alphabets (Arabic, Cyrillic and Latin - alphabets that changed six times during the 20th century in Uzbekistan) and rendered in abstract form.

The title of the exhibition Menim ismim kim edi? comes from the artist's eponymous installation, consisting of horsetail and neon writing in Arabic script in Old Uzbek "What was my name?". This work, like the entire exhibition, is, first of all, an artist's question to herself and to all women of Central Asia who have experienced political and ideological changes of the last century and their echoes, with particular focus on the transformation in changing values associated with the cultural, linguistic and spiritual worlds. The author raises the issue of remembering and the sacrament of women's rituals as an instrument of self-determination and belonging.

The exhibition includes Saodat Ismailova's programmatic videos, as well as new installations, which will be presented to the audience for the first time. The exhibition is divided into two parts: the main exposition will be held at Aspan Gallery and an installation Celestial Circles will be shown at the "DOM na Baribayeva".

Dates: 20 February – 20 June, 2021.


Aspan Gallery

20 February | 3:30 pm & 7 pm - artist-led tours of the exhibition*

"DOM na Baribayeva"

22 February | 7:30 pm - screening of Saodat Ismailova's Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea documentary (2004)*

* All our events are free, but must RSVP via phone or what’s app +7 (702) 592-41-93

Aspan Gallery working hours:

Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm

Sunday 12pm-6pm

Address: Villa Boutiques and Restaurants, 140A Al-Farabi, Almaty.

"DOM na Baribayeva" working hours:

Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm

Sunday 12pm-6pm

Address: 36 Baribayeva, Almaty.

Free entrance.

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