在第四届中美非物质文化遗产论坛(华盛顿 5.23-24)上的发言

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  Transmitting the ICH Item “Kazach Aqin Aytis” to an International Audience

非物质文化遗产“阿肯阿依特斯“的国际传播

  Xiaobing Wang-Riese, Sun Yat-sen University

中山大学  王霄冰

 

  Masterpieces of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) are chosen to represent the cultural core of a certain ethnic group or of a local community. They should also represent cultural diversity and creativity and thus be shared as common cultural treasures by all humans. Nevertheless, when a certain ICH item is introduced to people from other cultures on the occasion of international events, a conflict arises between its original value and the limitations of other people to understand its original value. This is especially true when the performance takes place outside of its original social and cultural settings.

  Aqin Aytis which I would like to introduce to you is a kind of oral performance practiced by the nomadic Kazaks in Kazakhstan and neighboring Xinjiang (China). Aqin is the special title for folk singers and poets who perform. improvisational songs with their own musical accompaniment on the traditional Donbula. Aytis means in Kazak language “competition, debating, musical dialog, antiphonal singing” with a extended meaning of “competition of knowledge and wisdom by poems”.

  In my eyes Aqin aytis represents an oral performance in the sense of Richard Baumann’s theory. Such performance is a situated behavior. which happens in certain context and expresses some certain meaning related to the context e.g. settings and institutions defined by culture. The substantive character of such a contextual performance is live communication. The aqins accomplish the communication through improvisational songs.

  Traditionally Aqin Aytis is integrated in the daily life of Kazaks especially on weddings, death rituals, celebrations of birth and other festivals. It can also be performed collectively by more than two singers. For examples, on a wedding their might be an antiphonal singing between a group of men and a group of women. The two groups are composed by friends of bride and bridegroom respectively. The girls sing from the standpoint of the bride and the boys from the standpoint of the bridegroom. The girls express the sadness of the bride who has to depart from her parents, hometown and friends while the boys try to comfort her, promise her to have a happy life as well as encourage her to be a good housewife.

  In the spring of 2010, I took part in a Sino-German research project with the title “Kazak Aqin Aytis of Xinjiang: Ritual, Text and Performance” sponsored by the ministry of education and science of the German federal government. More than a dozen scholars from Bonn University, Munich University, Humboldt University of Berlin, Bamberg University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Central University for Nationalities, and Xinjiang Normal University took part in the project. We carried out a conference in Bonn, several aytis live performances in German cities on a rather modest scale, and a 14 day joint fieldtrip in Xinjiang. In the picture you see two Kazak aqins who visited Germany with the Chinese delegation who performed aytis in Bonn, Berlin and Munich.

  Both Kazakh singers had never before visited a foreign country and had never performed aytis outside of Xinjiang. What would happen when they had to face an international audience which has no idea either of aytis or of their cultural background? That was the question I was very interested in. We realized also that it was a good opportunity for us to collect research materials on these occasions. So one of our group members, Bahat, a young Kazak scholar from Xinjiang and enthusiastic photographer and filmmaker filmed with a video camera all events in Germany as well as during our later visit in Xinjiang. On the basis of 8 hours of video recordings we produced a documentary film of about 75 minutes. I would like to show you some parts of the film. But before let me give you several examples of texts so that you can get an idea about the improvisational character of aqin aytis.

  The first example shows how they transform. the actual settings and events into poetry and how they try to communicate with the audience. The translation of this paragraph sung by the girl singer in the university club in Bonn is:

  Walking on the streets of the German capital

  We cannot find any milk tea and dry bread

  Looking into every restaurant

  Only the beer is famous around the world

  But to have a taste will make you drunk

  Besides this, only vegetables and hamburgers are provided

  If you refuse them, your stomach will protest

  As you see, she played a joke on the German audience by mocking their food which seems to be terrible for a native Kazak from Xinjiang. On another occasion she mocked the host and the group leader by singing:

  Now I want to make a joke with our hosts

  Could you please show a warm smile on your face?

  Everyday we have to walk on foot

  Although everywhere there are vehicles

  Going by foot on the street all day

  Our shoes are worn out

  Fearing our leader, we did not dare to complain

  Both legs can not move any more

  Although Allah has not yet pronounced our judgment

  We have received punishment on earth!

  As you see the Kazak aqins are very smart and are able to transmit their actual situation and feelings immediately into poetry and sing it out with instrumental accompany just by improvising. Unfortunately their poetry could not be appreciated by the audiences most of whom did not understand the Kazak language. Thus they merely enjoyed the music and the atmosphere. Some of our Xinjiang colleagues did try provide us simultaneous translation, but it was very difficult for them to transmit the literary expressions of Kazak language and the rhythmic poetry. Thus, the impact of the performance was much reduced. As reflected in this improvised singing text both singers faced the challenge of cultural shock they felt in Germany so that on occasions they lost patience and performing desire.

  Five days have passed in Germany

  We are happy as flowers in full blossom.

  On the first day we had a big audience and they were happy,

  They knew to value aqin aytis

  On the second day there were about twenty Germans

  They did not understand and only shook their heads

  On the third day about ten scholars are here

  They want to examine our talent

  How will it be if it goes on like this?

  The number people in the audience will be fewer than the aqins!

  Nevertheless they fulfilled all performance duties agreed upon beforehand fantastically through encouraging each other and reminding themselves of their national responsibilities as cultural ambassadors, as one of them put it:

  We came to Europe

  Thanks Allah’s blessing

  We should work hard together

  Calling Abilay’s name when we climb onto a horse

  Ah, elder brother you carry the expectation of our nation

  May your great deeds will be spread and praised among Kazakhs

  At the end of my presentation I want to raise a question for further discussion: Can a local ICH item be globalized so that people around the world can enjoy it and appreciate its value? Many cases of literary translations and international art performances have proved that the understanding and acceptance of a literary work or art from a foreign culture often remains superficial. And this is the reason why some scholars criticize such attempts since they exert negative effects on the original art or literature form. If we stay optimistic, we should however ask a further question: How can and should an ICH item be presented to the global audience? What kind of strategies can be developed to ensure that the performance of an ethnic oral tradition for a foreign audience will be successful?

 

 


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