Looking for Artists

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One of our goals for the residency was to get to know and collaborate with local artists in Osh. We were interested in creating a platform for exchange and contact between artists from two different contexts: American (specifically the SF Bay Area) and post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. However, upon our arrival, our search for artists, especially the younger generation, turned up few results. Jerome said that he felt a big contrast between his experiences with the Open Restaurant in the Bay Area where it was easy to find artists to work with and our difficulties to find such collaborators in Osh. We asked a number of our key contacts in Osh to help find artists. Yet, even Almaz, a local journalist and our irreplaceable guide in Osh who had a very profound knowledge of the city, could not provide us with any cues. He explained such lack by referring to the general trend of most talented young people leaving Osh.

The shortage of artists was part of the dire economic condition that the region was in. Southern Kyrgyzstan was considered to be poorer in contrast to the north were Bishkek was located. Furthermore, growing poverty after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to increasing rates of labor migration. Almaz gave us staggering numbers for migration. If the country’s population was officially five million people, about two million were abroad to earn money for their families in Kyrgyzstan. Migration seemed to have affected every family. Everybody had a cousin, a son, a brother or sister who was away in Moscow, Astana, Almaty, or Dubai. Migration was like a war, in the words of Almaz. It has brought an eerie absence into the lives of Osh residents.

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