RGS lecture on Travellers in the Great Steppe

On Monday I gave a talk for the RGS based on my recent book Travellers in the Great Steppe. It went very well and over 130 people logged on to listen. If you were not able to make it you can now listen in your own time by clicking on this link. The talk was subtitled ‘Nomads and their Textiles’ and contained a lot of material not directly covered in the book.

Kokpar: An ancient Central Asian sport

In Kazakhtan, Kokpar – known elsewhere in Central Asia as buzkashi (Afghanistan), kok boru (Uzbekistan) or ulak tyrtysh (Kyrgyzstan) – is a sport involving dozens of riders in what looks to outsiders like a brawl over a goat carcass. The winning side is the one that delivers the carcass (or head) into a specified pit the most times. Other than that there are few rules. The film below shows also that there is no specified limit to how far riders will travel in order to defeat their adversaries. I once saw a match in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, where the riders disappeared over the horizon, not to return for around 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Two events to cheer you up

This coming week I will be making two presentations, based on my two recent books.

On Monday at 1430 GMT I will be speaking at a Royal Geographical Society event in their ‘Be Inspired’ series, entitled Travellers in the Great Steppe: Nomads and their Textiles. In this talk I will be explaining how my abiding interest in nomadic textiles from Central Asia was the inspiration for researching and writing my book on Travellers. Using some wonderful slides, I will be talking about how many of the early travellers left us with detailed descriptions of textiles they saw as they crossed the steppes. Some, like Henry Lansdell and Henri Moser, brought back with them wonderful embroideries that are now in museum collections across the world. You can find further details of the talk here.

The second event, which takes place on Wednesday at 1500GMT is a talk for the Oxus Society about Chokan Valikhanov, based on my new edition of his writings in English (see below). As the blurb for the event says, “Nick Fielding’s new edited collection of the writings of Chokan Valikhanov brings the brilliance and insights of this young Kazakh intellectual to an English-speaking audience for the first time in more than 150 years. No-one knew the steppes like Valikhanov and his dangerous journeys into Chinese Turkestan have since become legendary. A staunch defender of his people and friend of Dostoyevsky, Potanin and Semenov-Tianshansky, his writings are as fresh today as they were when first written. If you want to attend the talk, further details can be found here. I hope you can join me!

e-version of new book on Chokan Valikhanov

The book launch for my new book, Selected Writings of Chokan Valikhanov: Pioneering Ethnographer and Historian of the Great Steppe, held virtually at the Royal Geographical Society, was a great success, with around 80 attending via Zoom and well over 500 on other media. Thank you to all of you. The book, published by Cambridge University Press, can be downloaded by clicking on this link.