Shows on the web  |  February  2014

In memory of Aleksandra Urkachan

The Foundation for Siberian Cultures deeply regrets the painful loss of Aleksandra Urkachan. I, Erich Kasten, have felt it most directly. As my closest Kamchatkan collaborator over many years, she made a major contribution to the elaboration and realisation of our common programme to sustain endangered languages and cultures among the indigenous peoples of Kamchatka. This eventually led to the establishment of the Foundation.

I first met Aleksandra in summer 1999 at a seminar in Esso in preparation for a concert tour of Germany with the ensemble "Nulgur". We had been looking for a dancer and singer who was especially well versed in the traditional family songs of the Koryaks. Aleksandra was the obvious choice. Since then, we have continued our working trips together, criss-crossing both Kamchatka and Europe. » more

During this time, our common objective – to preserve the unique cultural heritage of the peoples of Kamchatka – drew us even closer. We agreed that the top priority was to encourage young people to value and further develop the precious indigenous knowledge of their ancestors. We recorded the traditional knowledge of the elders and translated it into learning tools and during school lessons. We arranged to give artists, especially younger ones, the opportunity to perform and present their art in concert tours and at exhibitions abroad. In Germany, Aleksandra made presentations at academic seminars on the cultures of the peoples of the North. Her profound and most authentic knowledge was always highly regarded. It was immediately apparent to all how deeply rooted she was in the values and cultural traditions of her forebears.

Given this background, Aleksandra was always sceptical of old and new nationalisms of any kind. Her family origins led her to identify as Koryak-Nymylan and Even, yet she collaborated readily with Russians as well as with foreigners. In keeping with the traditions of the peoples of the North, she realized that encounters and relationships with strangers could be of mutual benefit; both sides could only learn and benefit from sharing one's special knowledge and experiences. I owe a great debt, therefore, to Aleksandra. Over many years of joint travels through Kamchatka, she gave me a clearer understanding of the local worldview and way of life. Gradually, I came to cherish the indigenous peoples of that region, along with their cultures. For myself, and for many others, Aleksandra's wisdom and genuinely peace-loving nature will always serve as a role model.

Family songs of the Nymylans (Coastal Koryaks)
of Lesnaya

Aleksandra Urkachan
Palana, 2001

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Songs and Dances
Aleksandra Urkachan
- Workshop in Esso, 2000
- O-lo-lo-festival
in Lesnaya, 2001
- Linden-Museum Stuttgart, during a concert tour with the ensemble Or'jakan, 2009

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Traditional knowledge of Nymylan (Coastal Koryak) fishermen

Aleksandra Urkachan
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, 2010

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Teaching traditional knowledge of Koryak
Aleksandra Urkachan at the "State Koryak Center for Arts & Crafts" in Palana, Juni 2012
TV broadcast, Vesti Kamchatka
S. Manaenkov, V. Manuchin
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Exhibition at the Koryak Regional Museum
Palana, October 2012

TV broadcast, Vesti Kamchatka
S. Manaenkov, N. Kokok

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As guests at the school in Achaivayam

April 2013

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