Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Koryak of Kamchatka

Irina Khristoforvna and Anna Vasilevna Kolegova
16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas, 2018
Kamchatka, the far eastern peninsula of Russia, is mighty close to America. Despite the supposed isolation of native Americans since the last ice age (c. 13,000 BCE), the cultures on either side of the Bering Sea have much in common. No surprise then that the Koryak, natives of Kamchatka, have a competition song tradition quite similar to that of their Inuit neighbors in Canada. Compared to native Americans the history of native Siberians is one of coexistence going back to Viking times. Not to say that Siberian (shamanic) traditional cultures weren't threatened in their existence, far from it. As Russians before the Revolution were perhaps more homogeneous as a people than the Americans were, the Communist Soviet period took homogeneity to a further extreme. The villages of far northern and eastern Siberia were considered useless to the Soviet agenda and its people were systematically displaced, villages were closed, and their traditional way of life persecuted. Shamans went in hiding. Just before the new year I received the cd Sibérie 4, Korjak, Kamchatka: Tambours de danse de l'extrême orient-sibérien in the mail. The ordering was quite an ordeal as no English language sites seem to have the item in stock. From the cd, the Chant de compétition, performed by Irina Khristoforovna Kolegova and Ana Vasilevna Kolegova, is the last top 100 entry of 2017. The list now, I decided, continues to run through 2018.

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