The World Nomad Games proclaims its slogan for all to hear: “United in Strength! United in Spirit!”
The 2018 iteration of the biennial games took place in the Kyrgyz Republic on September 2, nestled in the northeast of Centra Asia and the Tien Shan mountains. 90 percent of the country’s land is over 1,500 meters above sea level, and it’s almost entirely mountainous, so it is no surprise that the main source of water is from glacial meltwater.
The games were created in 2012 to revitalize and preserve nomadic culture. This year featured thousands of athletes from 77 countries competing in 37 types of ethnosports. “The mission of the World Nomad Games covers the revival, development and preservation of the ethnoculture, diversity and originality of the people of the world in order to foster a more tolerant and open relationship between people,” states the official website. The event is broken into three sections: ethnoculture, enthnosport, and science. It features diverse activities that range from folklore and traditional intellectual games to traditional wrestling and salbuurun, their form of hunting with local wildlife.
For this week’s Photo Friday, take a look at the 2018 World Nomad Games, as well as competitions from years past.
The World Nomad Games, held in Kyrgyzstan on September 3-8, drew participants from 40 countries, most of them from former Soviet Union. Competitions were held in over 20 different sports, including archery and javelin throwing, horse racing and several kinds of wrestling (some between individuals who stand in a ring, another between mounted riders). A sort of polo played with the headless body of a dead goat, known in Afghanistan as buzkashi and as kok-boru in Kyrgyzstan, is a particular favorite. A board game, toguz, somewhat similar to chess, is a less physical form of competition.
This event was the second World Nomad Games, following the first event in September 2014. This year’s event, like the earlier one, was held at Cholpon-Ata in Naryn Province of Kyrgyzstan, a small town on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, with striking views of the glacier-capped peaks of the Tien Shan.
These photographs demonstrate the vigor of the nomad traditions and the excitement of the participants. They document the importance of horses in nomad cultures, and demostrate other skills as well that have developed over the centuries among the pastoral populations who inhabit the high-elevation grasslands, many of them watered by glacier melt.