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05 May 2023

WHAT DOES IT

MEAN TO BE

CENTRAL

ASIAN TODAY?

For this inaugural issue of Ruyò entitled ‘To my mind’, it seems of particular relevance to start from the ground zero of all the future questions this artist-run publication will definitely pose, trying to suggest some elements of response to the ultimate inquiry preoccupying so many of my compatriots and contemporaries. It goes like this: what does it mean to be Central Asian today? Below is the list of my fourteen consecutive points one can consider a manifesto.

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means carrying within oneself the cultural code and the memory of Turkestan and its diverse indigenous population of both Turkic and Persian origin.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being descendants of numerous of those who were once strangers to these lands, both forced or desired, but who, throughout centuries, decades, years and months of living here, made the region their new home.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means collectively undertaking the attempt to finally re-center ourselves and our unique experiences. There is a reason the region is called Central Asia, right?

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being classified in a multitude of both geographical and political units, neither of which fully grasping our complex identities. In fact, be it a post-Socialist bloc, former Soviet states group, Global South or Global East countries, Turkic or, more generally, Asian world, none of the mentioned can truly grant ourselves an adequate representation. This signifies that not only all forms of identitarianism are fake, but also that our rich heritage and our strategic geographical position provided us with an incredibly flexible identity which goes beyond any essentialization.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means permanently struggling with our authoritarian governments for having the bare minimum when it comes to human rights and dignity. Policing us, they never succeed at breaking our will.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being constantly menaced by the expansion politics and insatiable imperial appetite of the neighboring terrorist state.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 most often means needing to learn our own mother tongues anew for they were neglected and suppressed.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means finding beauty and force in what was once labeled as ‘uncivilized’ and ‘uneducated’.

 

  • But being Central Asian in 2023 does not mean being trapped in this ‘victim of colonialism’ state at all, no. It means quite the opposite: realizing what was lost and what was its price and that probably there was collaborationism and harm caused also by the locals, not only by the outsiders, but eventually taking agency in constructing a better future.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being forged by wars, both those which were waged within the region itself, marking its tragic history, and the one that is now raging on our very threshold.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means quite probably being at risk to access drinking water in the following decades. It also means to breathe polluted air without the official authorities even caring about it.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being protected, heard and taken care of only by fellow activist communities, while also being constantly silenced by the existing corrupted political regimes.

 

  • Being Central Asian in 2023 means being legal successor of the region’s dynamic artistic scene encompassing, technically speaking, a rich variety of media and, thematically, a large number of different subjects and theoretical discourses that manage to reconcile nomadism, shamanism, history and identity politics with queer and gender studies, decolonisation and non-human agency.

 

  • While being all of the above-mentioned and none of it at the same time, most of all, being Central Asian in 2023 means partaking in this beautiful process of collective imagining and building. Starting from the common ground, which was and will always be there, rooting ourselves in it, we now plant the future which will finally reflect our visions and no longer anyone else’s.