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Tang'yra is calling
Prof. V. Vladykin

Vapum Ulonlen Syures Vozhez - Bydzym Vozho Dyr - The Great Crossroads of Time. Continents of millenniums are clashing, breaking the Time itself into smithereens. A terrifying thought arises that maybe we have entered a Time Gap. Some things are already Not There, while some are Not Yet There. Everyone is eager to know: what is ahead? what will happen to us? shall we be allowed to be There? With merciless inevitability, each people as well as each culture and the civilization in general are facing the Hamlet's question To be or to not to be? that has tormenting humans for centuries. "In which direction" shall we live? Which qualities shall we have? To answer the last of these questions, ethnofuturists have something to say.

The term ethnofuturism was born in the 80's of the now expired 20th century. Its fathers were the Estonian intellectuals. Having offered the term, the unhurried guys either overlooked or did not deem it necessary to give it an academic definition (hence its vagueness, its ambiguity and the abundance of its meanings down to the so-called "ethnic surrealism"). One way or another, ethnofuturism was never on friendly terms with the adepts of academic approach. It was, in a way, a challenge of the young generation anxious with its unsatisfactory ethnic condition. Or we may call it a proposal. To be more precise, it was an answer to the challenge of globalisation. It was an attempt to make a seemingly impossible blend of ethnic antiquity and the up-to-date modernist style. To achieve this, old content is either cross-bred with the modern form or vice versa. The main idea is that ethnic values should not be denied. They should not be buried in the past and cut from the actual life, but we must invite them to the future and give them new impulses for development. Hence they start a new life, even if at times in somewhat unusual forms. The idea has turned to be attractive and catching. The infection of ethnofuturism has spread among creative youth in many Finno-Ugric regions.

In the summer of 1998, an informal creative group named Odomaa (The Native Udmurt Land) emerged in Udmurtia, uniting young artists, actors, poets, writers and other people interested in ethnofuturist art. One of its leaders is artist Yuri Kuchyran (Y.N. Lobanov). One may call him the life and soul of the Odomaa. He is the author of the state symbols - the court of arms and the national banner - of the Udmurt Republic, and was awarded the Udmurtia State Premium. Members of the Odomaa enthusiastically participate in the group's actions. Olga Aleksandrova, a talented Udmurt performer and art director, has made a tour over European stages with her monoperformance, acquainting the theatrical public with Udmurt scenic art. She presented original sincerity of her people's worldview, multiplied by her talent and modern thinking. She was a success in Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France and Canada. And, at last, her innovatory scenic language seems to have won understanding at home, in Russia and in Udmurtia.

Since 1998 to 2000, the Odomaa has held the following conceptual ethnofuturist exhibitions.

The exhibition named Yegit Gondyr Veme (The House of a Young Bear) was held 25 to 28 June 1998. For the group members, this exhibition was the maiden attempt and a good occasion to explore their strength and potentialities. The event was perhaps more important to the participants themselves, serving as a convocation under the banner of ethnofuturism. The ranks of ethnofuturists were inspected, the basic concepts and ideas were discussed and elaborated. The new personage entering the world declared itself as Yegit Gondyr - a Young Bear who is strong enough.

The exhibition named Odomaa was held 13 to 20 July 1998. This event was an important follow-up of the previous action. It was focused on finding the place for ethnofuturist movement in the complex world. The unsaid motto seemed to sound as "the home-coming" or "the new discovery" of the ancient native home. The search for this native homeland was reflected already in the word "Odomaa". It is a specially composed ethnofuturist word meaning "the native Udmurt land". In this land, the young generation is to live and create simultaneously in the old way and in the new way.

The exhibition named Erumaa (The Loveland) was held 16 to 25 October 1998. The project surprisingly turned to be épater, liberated and free, which is untypical for the Finno-Ugrians in general and for the Udmurts in particular: these people tend to be somewhat "reserved", especially in their personal life. The motto looked rather like a mixture of unchained constraint, of taboo and liberty, dominated by the harmony of all-triumphant Love.
The exhibition named Kalmez (The Man-Fish) was held 20 March to 16 April 1999. I would call it one of the most successful and promising meetings in the common context of Person-Community-Nature and Person-Stream of Life interactions. The exposition made one feel like a small fish caught in the immense network of Time, Circumstances and Problems. Those fishes would like to tear themselves out of the net and swim away. Some were fortunate, some others started dreaming of this.

The exhibition named Mushomu (the Land of Bees) was held 25 May to 18 June 2000. Its name was not an accident. There is a legend telling that there are bees in every place where the Finno-Ugrians live. The Finno-Ugrians have often stricken their neighbours by their being industrious like bees. A traveller who visiting Udmurtia in 18th century exclaimed: "All over the Russian State, these people are beyond compare in diligence". Ancient Udmurts had a custom to welcome their guests with bread, butter and honey. The Udmurt language, too, is rich with words connected to bees; linguists have counted at least a couple of dozens. The land has also a distinct kind of a bee of its own, the Udmurt bee. Traditionally, the bee and the beehive were considered as examples of "nectariferous" diligence and of an "optimal social organism" in ideal agreement with the harmonious world of Blooming Nature.

Those were not simply exhibitions but rather broad actions that included performances, installations, discussions, sightseeing, etc. They gained wide international resonance, as well as large popularity in the republic. The precept of Kuzebay Gerd, the great figure of Udmurt culture, is coming true: at last, the Udmurts seem to wake up from lethargy. They actively declare themselves in the contemporary ethnocultural time and space, they scrutinise their history and start carefully collecting it. A constrained and even a shy Udmurt already "dares to be courageous".

Obviously, in this sense one may already speak of the history of Udmurt ethnofuturism. Indeed, why not consider Kuzebay Gerd himself as the earliest Udmurt ethnofuturist? Let us recall his short novel Mati which was frequently overlooked in his time and later. The main character of the novel finds out that she is needless to others and escapes to the primitive "wooden civilization" of her own, back into her original element where the forest becomes her "homeland". The author of this strange dream novel, however, was woken up by some fierce realists of 1930's and 1940's who bitterly tore him away from his fantasies and put him to sleep forever in obscurity. After all, it is probably not accidental that the root of the word "ethnofuturism" is futurum, thus connected with future - in this case, with our today.
The last ethnofuturist project of the group Odomaa was named Tang'yra (held 26 to 29 April 2001). The name produces many associations, among them with the ancient musical instrument. Tang'yra is a peculiar Udmurt tam?tam. At the village outskirts, ropes woven of horse-hair were pulled between two pines. Suspended on these ropes were resonant blocks of fir-tree. The blocks, each with the "voice" of its own, were percussed with a bat. The instrument allowed villages to communicate with each other, telling others about a funeral or a wedding.

The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods,
or is that a wandering echo,
or is that the thunder from the skies
telling us something?
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods -

The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods
amidst the stems deep in the thicket.
Is that a lover's appeal
or is that a sad honk of crane
or is that the beat of your heart?
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods -

The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods.
Others heard this sound before
and now it is almost forgotten.
But it disturbs us again.
The buzz of tang'yra is heard in the woods!

The ancient Udmurt lived in small villages lost in the boundless primeval forests and covered with snow to the very roofs of houses. They knew, however, that they were connected to the world, as well as to their past and to their future.

In our mad time of widespread alienation, when centuries-old bonds are broken thoughtlessly, it is so easy to get lost, to forget each other, to lose your mind in the immense ocean of people. Not only single individuals but peoples as a whole can get lost and disappear. These problems are particularly urgent in our great and long-suffering country. Maybe it's the high time to declare the Age of Rediscovery, Unity and Kinship? Perhaps in this frightful harmony of chaos, among the stunning silence of universal hullabaloo, in the stirring planetary ant-hill of people who are losing their individuality, it is the time to eventually rediscover yourself, you own face, your voice, and your people. And to find a unique gift edition produced by the Nature and the Culture. The young ethnofuturists from the boring today are peering into the exciting Tomorrow. Sometimes these are just fantasies. Many of them, however, are tempting and attractive. Perhaps they may come true?

I believe the hope is not totally lost.

The vivid voice of tang'yra still sounds in us!

The ski-track of Kalevala calls us to move on.

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