Poetry, oral literature, and folk traditions are deeply embedded in Uyghurs’ cultural life, spirituality, and the development of emotional knowledge. As the principal informants, Uyghur women play an essential role in safeguarding and giving communities ownership of these practices. As such, they have nurtured and maintained a sense of agency at times of grief, loss, and hardship.
Each year on the 21st of March when the vernal equinox dawns, Uyghurs celebrate the festival of Nowruz, which UNESCO recognises as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. An ancient tradition likely emerged from Zoroastrianism, Nowruz, meaning ‘new-day’, welcomes the return of spring, heralds the rejuvenation of nature, and is celebrated by peoples from the Persianate societies to the Turkic world. Amongst Uyghurs, the preparation and celebration of Nowruz are highly ritualistic processes enshrined with spiritual significance and are confined mainly to women. Qoshaq, folk ballads are recited or improvised at various ceremonies. While these songs revolve around the arrival and celebration of the new year, they mostly deal with women’s emotions, spirituality, desires, love, and suppressed sensuality; as well as the triumph of joy over sorrow, and virtue over evil - thus, hope.
The introduction of the festival of Nowruz is the first part of this ongoing project which aims to use sound, image, and text to document Uyghur women’s role in community building and poetry making. While these projects seek to preserve these cultural practices under threat, making them available to the many displaced Uyghur diasporic communities worldwide will help alleviate their increasing feelings of cultural, emotional, and spatial alienation.
Project team: Dr Ayxem Eli (UNSW), Scientia Professor Louise Edwards (UNSW)
For more information about this project, contact email@example.com or visit https://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/our-research/research-centres-institutes/research-networks/silk-road.