U.S.-backed programs have showcased Kazakhstan’s rich history and culture, from medieval fortresses to the country’s “Qazaq-pop” boy band Ninety One.
The United States was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991. Ever since, the two countries have partnered to protect Kazakhstan’s famed archaeological sites and historic monuments and to celebrate its traditional — and contemporary — arts and music.
Here’s a look at some recent U.S. programs in Kazakhstan.
Documenting ancient ruins
Over 18 months, experts from Kazakhstan and the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) investigated and cataloged stone monoliths and artifacts across Kazakhstan.
These include the archaeological landscape of Zhetyasar in the Kyzylkum Desert and the open-air sanctuary at the necropolis around the Uali Cave Mosque in Mangyshlak, valued cultural sites.
An album of artifacts of ancient Turkic and ancient Uyghur writing of the 6th–14th centuries was compiled in honor of the AFCP’s 20th anniversary at the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan.
Storytelling through textiles
In 2021, artists from Kazakhstan and the United States compared their crafts in a series of workshops called Storytelling through Textiles. The first focused on quilting and included kurak, a type of traditional Kazakh patchwork quilting.
Another workshop focused on felting, the practice of turning wool into felt, and a third focused on embroidery. The U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, Chevron, Union of Artisans of Kazakhstan and the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage sponsored the initiative.
Discovering tomorrow’s filmmakers
The 2022 48 Hour Film Race included 250 four-minute films from across Central Asia, all created in only two days. Filmmakers touched on war, gender-based violence and suicide. This year’s winners received scholarships to the New York Film Academy, Almaty Cinema School and video equipment.
Appreciating Kazakh music
The Kazakh boy band Ninety One sings exclusively in Kazakh. The four-member band is considered a pioneer of Kazakhstan’s “Qazaq-pop” genre, increasing Kazakh language usage both in music and broader society. The band’s name is a reference to the year Kazakhstan gained independence.
The band is popular among some Americans, including Evan Allen. “I began to learn the language from their songs, repeating words and intonation after them,” said Allen, who teaches English at a university in Taraz, Kazakhstan, as part of the U.S. Fulbright Program.
In November 2022, American Space Almaty hosted the band along with U.S. exchange students in Kazakhstan participating in the Future Leaders Exchange Abroad program.
Band members shared the meaning behind their Kazakh lyrics, which address social issues like equality, and had Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu join in a performance.