Mongolia

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 2: Location Painting And A Special Naadam At Arburd Sands, Bayan-Onjuul Soum

Perfect start to a great day!

Perfect start to a great day!

You can read Part 1 here. The Expedition schedule was planned to coincide with the naadam (festival) that is held at Arburd Sands ger camp every year to celebrate the camp’s anniversary. Since we were going out to a part of Mongolia, the far western Gobi, where there were very few herders I knew this was the perfect opportunity for the participants to get a taste of Mongol culture and just have a fun time, which we certainly did!

We set up camp the afternoon before, having driven about five hours from Ulaanbaatar.

Camp Central at Arburd Sands, cook tent on the right, dining tent on the left

Camp Central at Arburd Sands, cook tent on the right, dining tent on the left

Was this a great campsite or what?

Was this a great campsite or what?

We had time the next morning to get in some painting and sketching…

View from the dunes

View from the dunes

Magvandorj working on a landscape

Magvandorj working on a landscape

Tugs-oyun added the camels to her piece

Tugs-oyun added the camels to her piece

Sharon Schafer worked on recording the various plants in her sketchbook

Sharon Schafer worked on recording the various plants in her sketchbook

Time to go to the naadam!

Time to go to the naadam!

Our drivers had been helping with the set-up, including putting up a ger

Some of us helped with the set-up, including putting up a ger

We took a few minutes to get a group shot

We took a few minutes to get a group shot

The local people had started to arrive, many on their horse. Here's an example of Mongol leatherwork.

The local people had started to arrive, many on their horses. Here’s an example of Mongol leatherwork.

Magvandorj and I sketched the horses

Magvandorj and I sketched the horses

Our drivers, Batmaa and Sendag, helped with the real Mongolian BBQ....khorhog (mutton or goat cooked in the metal containers)

Our drivers, Batmaa and Sendag, helped with the real Mongolian BBQ….khorhog (mutton or goat cooked with extremely hot rocks in the metal containers)

The tails of the horses who will be racing are wrapped part way down.

The tails of the horses who will be racing are wrapped part way down.

The centerpiece of the naadam site....a big maikhan (summer tent)

The centerpiece of the naadam site….a big maikhan (summer tent)

The opening festivities included a performance by a morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) player and a long singer, who had a wonderful voice

The opening festivities included a performance by a morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) player and a long singer who had a wonderful voice; and their brocade del were spectacular

I'm presenting a painting I did of our host's father some years ago; I had brought it back to Mongolia for my exhibition at the National Museum of Mongolia and decided that it needed to stay in the country and with the family

I’m presenting a painting I did of our host’s father some years ago. I had brought it to Mongolia for my exhibition at the National Museum of Mongolia and decided that it needed to stay in the country and with the family, which has shown me great kindness and hospitality over the years

The procession that starts the horse race

The procession that starts the horse race. The jockeys are all singing a song to their horses that tells them that soon they will get to run and run and run.

Three of the jockeys were young girls

Three of the jockeys were young girls

Heading out to the starting point

Heading out to the starting point

In the meantime, the anklebone shooting competition had gotten under way

In the meantime, the anklebone shooting competition had gotten under way

The target...stacked sheep's anklebones; if hit they fall off the back into the box

The target…stacked sheep’s anklebones; if hit they fall off the back into the box

The competitors holding the piece of wood from which they launch an anklebone. You do not want to get hit by one

The competitors holding the piece of wood from which they launch an anklebone. You do not want to get hit by one if it goes off-line

At last the horses and riders come back into view

At last the horses and riders came back into view

Racing to the finish line

Racing to the finish line

The youngest riders were accompanied by at least one adult the whole way

The youngest riders were accompanied by at least one adult the whole way

One of the girl jockeys. She exuded determination and seriousness

One of the girl jockeys. She exuded determination and seriousness

The after race feast...khorhog, salads and various dairy products like aruul (dried curds)

The after-race feast…khorhog, salads and various dairy products like cheese, aruul (dried curds) and…

The legendary mare's milk of Mongolia....airag

The legendary mare’s milk of Mongolia….airag

Then it was time for the wrestling, Mongol bokh. He's doing the traditional Eagle Dance before a bout.

Then it was time for the wrestling, Mongol bokh. He’s doing the traditional Eagle Dance before a bout.

And this youngster did a great job doing his own version.

And this youngster did a great job with his own version.

The wrestlers in the traditional garb are more experienced and have probably earned rankings in the soum or aimag. Any local guy can enter and see what he can do.

The wrestlers in the traditional garb are more experienced and have probably earned rankings in the soum or aimag. Any local guy can enter and see what he can do, but the highest ranked wrestlers get to pick their opponent, so the odds aren’t good. There is no weight division. It’s everyone against everyone. The rules are very simple. First part of the body to touch the ground other than the feet means you lose. Within that simplicity is an infinite complexity of tactics and mind games. I’ve really become a fan.

I had to make a really tough choice. I wanted to watch the wrestling, but a demonstration of catching and riding young horses had begun. The horses won out because I really needed more reference of riders using the urga (the long catchpole)

I found myself making a tough choice. I wanted to watch the wrestling, but a demonstration of catching and riding young horses had begun. The horses won out because I really needed more reference of riders using the urga (the long catchpole)

We saw how 2 year olds are caught and ridden for the first time. It was a rodeo. This horse is feeling a bridle for the first time

We saw how 2 year olds are caught and ridden for the first time. It was a rodeo. This good-looking sturdy horse is feeling a bridle for the first time and he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like it

He really would rather not

He really would rather not

The punctuation point

The punctuation point and a moment later the bridle fell off, but all to no avail

Protesting in vain. As you can see, we could get as close to the action as we wanted

Protesting in vain. As you can see, we could get as close to the action as we wanted. Some were a little too close, but no one was hurt

Maybe not so bad after all

Maybe not so bad after all

Just love this photo of a young Mongol girl

Just love this photo of a young Mongol girl, totally at home on her horse and in her “nutag”, the land where she was born

One of my favorite catch photos. The horsemanship we saw that afternoon was jaw-dropping, but nothing special for people put on a horse at age three

One of my favorite catch photos. The horsemanship we saw that afternoon was jaw-dropping, but nothing special for people put on a horse at age three. They ride like we walk.

The winner of the horse race

The winner of the horse race

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