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ARCHIVE - Passport Control 1-41 - MEDIAWAVE Art Workshops :: PASSPORT CONTROL 3 - Altai & Novosibirsk (Russia), 2007 :: 4 September, ALTAI

4 September, ALTAI

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The photos on this page were taken by Péter Szabó, a teacher of PASSPORT CONTROL Workshop.

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Jenő Hartyándi:

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Before we left our campsite at 10.00, Ella held a speech to us. While the majority of her audience got more and more fightened, she mentioned her worries about us. According to her we weren’t prepared either physically or spiritually for a visit to the inner lands of the Altaic region. As she told us, these parts were really dangerous because of the inhabitants, who drink a lot, and don’t like especially the tourists, the strangers representing the wealth to them, which wasn’t provided for them. She asked us try to wear at least such clothes not to look like tourists and advised us not to wander around lonely. She couldn’t accompany us, but she provided us an experienced guide, who knew not only the local customs, but the people too.

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When we arrived in Ozyok, Shebalinskiy region, our plan was to get to know the leaders of the nearby villages, since I knew, learning from my earlier experiences of shooting at authentic places, that it would have been quite impossible to make a film if you just had entered a village as a stranger and had switched on your camera. Arriving at the district office, there was a meeting for the leaders of the neighbouring villages. We asked them if there was a local musician, who would play some local, traditional music for us, thus we could avoid their attention from our real aim (shooting a film about them).

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That’s how we met Artjom Chepkonakov, 24, a music teacher with long hair and a baseball cap, looking like a North-American Indian, who took a local stringed instrument with plectrums (called topshuur), a folk pipe and a trump with himself.
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In one of the nearby villages we got into a yard of a house, where two elderly women hosted us, one of them were at least 100 years old. While they disappeared in the house, we asked the guy to play some folk music to us. He played the music and we stood open-mouthed. He was brilliant. Soon the two elderly women appeared again, this time dressed in folk clothes and served us round pine seeds, smoked cheese and a tasty drink made of milk. In a house close to this one straps, harness were being made by hands. Our cameras were busy all the time, we didn’t want to miss any moment, any action. It was like a folk museum got alive in front of us.
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On the way to our next stop, we travelled through a hill. According to the local traditions, people respect hills and mountains and to express it, they put off their hats and tide ribbons on the trees during climbing through them. We expressed our respect to the spirits of the hills the same way.
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At our next stop our host invited us into a so-called ail, which is very much like our summer kitchens in the countryside, with a shape of a yurta made of pine tree. Here people hold domestic animals the same way as in Transylvania: on pastures of the mountains. Our host had 30 horses, 20 cows and several goats, sheep, pigs. As Altaic people aren’t Buddhist or Mohammedan, but shamanist, they hold and eat pigs. As they explained to us, except from the salt everything was grown and produced by themselves. In addition they make use or eat every bit of the animals. At this point they gave us a demonstration of it. I’m sure we won’t forget it for a while. The host served round us something on a tray, which seemed to be a horse dick. However it turned out, it was tripe stuffed with tripe. Large horse intestine stuffed with small horse intestine. Although we were extremely hungry, I don’t think there were anyone, who ate more than one slice of it. Actually it was quite enough for our whole life.
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Before our departure we visited the local shool, where there were only 20 students in 4 classes. The same way as our host’s house was supplied with tv, this little school had internet access. Finally we were offered to taste a local brandy which had the smell and taste of smoked cheese. We drank it, following the local traditions, crouching.
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Meanwhile I advised to change our plan and shoot a film about Artjom, who wanted to show us his native village the following day. Everyone agreed.
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We got back to our campsite at 10.00 pm, where our usual dinner and the „bánya” welcame us. We started to get used to this place, started to mention it as home. The lady who was responsibly for giving us the dinner, fell in love with us, and we started to have a lot of privileges.
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I have to mention here our guide, who was a young cinematographer from St. Petersburgh, and whose father was a well-known Altaic-fan, publishing a book about the region. They made a living of organizing expeditions, trips, mountain-climbing and even rafting. And I mustn’t leave out from my list our driver, who did everything for our comfort.

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