The Space of Grounded Imagination
Forever Umai, 2010-2010
Almagul Menlibayeva commonly employs references to her own nomadic heritage and the widespread Shamanistic traditions of Central Asia to construct a personal mythological world. In the mythology of the nomads of Kazakhstan, Umai figures as the goddess of fertility and virginity. The traditional garb and dramatic staging of Forever Umai suggest Menlibayeva has created a modern portrait of the goddess. In the setting of the vast steppes, ominously lit by the sun, she looks unruly, if not downright frightening. At her feet lies a man holding a sheep. Is he asleep or is he dead? Did Umai come to deliver the fatal blow or to resurrect him from his slumber? The many ambiguities of Forever Umai hint at questions of gender and femininity and reflect the ambiguities in the conception of a Kazakh national identity - a recurrent theme in Menlibayeva's work.