The WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2014 Part 3: The First-ever International Crane Festival, Binder Soum, Han Hentii Aimag

Dr. George Archibold. Founder of the International Crane Foundation, was honored at the opening ceremony.
Dr. George Archibold. Founder of the International Crane Foundation (holding the photograph), was honored at the opening ceremony. On the far right is Nyambayar Batbayar, the Mongol researcher in charge of the crane study. (If anyone reading this can identify any of the other people in the photo, please do so in the comments and I’ll add them)

On June 13, as planned, we attended the first International Crane Festival, which was held in the soum center of Binder, Han Hentii Aimag. It was a wonderful day and great to be able to, by our attendance, support the local community and the researchers. The first thing I noticed was a very large display of art created by local children. Since the main mission of the WildArt Mongolia Expeditions is to find ways to use art to support conservation, I could not have been happier to see this. I tried to photograph every piece and I’ve posted all those images, plus the opening ceremony and other activities. You may notice that the traditional clothes look different than what you usually see in my posts and that is because we were in Buryat Mongol country, which extends from northeastern Mongolia north into southern Siberia. Buryat dels have a distinctive front design and their boots and hats are different than the Khalkh Mongol versions. The feeling of being welcomed, however, was the same as everywhere else I’ve been in Mongolia.

Informational map
Informational map
Informational poster
Informational poster
Dr. Archibald doing a filmed interview
Dr. Archibald doing a filmed interview
The art display area
The art display area

ICF 4ICF 5ICF 6ICF 7ICF 8ICF 9ICF 10ICF 11ICF 12ICF 13ICF 14ICF 15ICF 16ICF 17ICF 18ICF 19ICF 20ICF 21ICF 22ICF 23ICF 24ICF 25ICF 26ICF 27

Printed materials
Printed materials
Photos
Photos
Photos
Photos
Activity table for local kids. They're making paper cranes.
Activity table for local kids. They’re making paper cranes.
I thought this was a great idea.
I thought this was a great idea.

Then it was time for the opening ceremony!

Buryat dancers
Buryat Mongol dancers
Solo performer. She really rocked it!
Solo performer. She really rocked it!
Young singer in Buryat clothes.
Young singer in Buryat clothes. I liked the contrast with the girl in the photo above.

 

She did a dance about fetching water that I'd like to learn more about.
She did a dance about fetching water that I’d like to learn more about.

The festival had all the usual events..horse race, wrestling, anklebone shooting and more…

The anklebone shooting competition.
The anklebone shooting competition.
The finish of the horse race.
The finish of the horse race.
Cooling down her mount. The race horses always have the binding on the tail, so easy to tell which ones they are.
Cooling down her mount. The race horses always have the binding on the tail, so easy to tell which ones they are.
Mongol bukh (wrestling).
Mongol bukh (wrestling).
I got some great action shots!
I got some great action shots!
During the break between rounds, these kids came out into the arena and picked flowers.
During the break between rounds, these kids came out into the arena and picked flowers.
The five winners of the horse race riding in formation. They did a couple of full-circle wheels in unison. I was quite impressed.
The five winners of the horse race riding in formation. They did a couple of full-circle wheels in unison. I was quite impressed since, as far as I know, the horses are not trained for this kind of thing at all.
We went to the shop in town and came upon this group who gave a concert that evening.
We went to the shop in town and came upon this group who gave a concert that evening. A colorful ending to a great day!

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2014 Has Returned!

gazelle headerWe returned to Ulaanbaatar on June 21 and I immediately had to throw myself into preparations for the 2013 Expedition group art exhibition, which will be the subject of my next post and is open now at the Union of Mongolian Artists Gallery until July 7.

The 2014 Expedition was a great success! Here’s some of the highlights. There will be a series of posts once I’m home.

We saw cranes in the Han Hentii Mountains and attended the first-ever International Crane Festival in Binder Soum. We received an excellent briefing on the major crane study which has now gotten under way and in a future post I’ll cover what the researchers are doing, how they’re doing it and what they hope to learn. Below is one of the study subjects, demoiselle cranes with two chicks.

demoiselle cranesThe crane festival was wonderful. There was a show of crane art created by local school children, an opening ceremony with dancers and singers, a horse race, Mongol wrestling and an anklebone shooting competition.

crane festThe opening ceremony included a traditional dance by young Buryat Mongol girls.

buryat dancers 2Mongol-style wrestling (Bukh)

binder wrestlersThe finish of the horse race.

horse raceAnklebone shooting.

shagaAll to celebrate crane conservation! I also got to meet Dr. George Archibald, founder of the International Crane Foundation, who was there with a group of researchers and supporters.

Our next major destination was Tolson Hulstay Nature Reserve, home to between 40,000 and 60,000 Mongolian gazelles. We saw them, a couple of times in large numbers, every time we drove out into the reserve, which also has a dozen small to medium-sized lakes. I fell in love with the grassland steppe and will certainly be going back there. I was able to interview one of the six rangers and get a lot of good first-hand information that I’ll be sharing in a future post.

Mongolian gazelle. Below and at the top of the post.

gazelles 2

The legendary grassland steppe. Toson Hulstay is the largest preserved and conserved area of it left. steppeThe rainy season had started early. Great for the herders and their animals, who look to have a very good year with excellent grazing. But for traveling by car, it got a little interesting sometimes…

car crossing earth roadBut of course it was worth it!

 

 

 

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