In Xinjiang, the Uyghur people, and their whole culture, remain under severe repression. Still no news emerges of the great anthropologist Rahilä Dawut (see also Uyghur tag, notably Ashiq: the last troubadour, Uyghur culture in crisis, and Uyghur drum-and-shawm).
The Uyghur dancer, film-maker, and anthropologist Mukaddas Mijit, based in France since 2003, has a creative engagement with the beleaguered culture of her homeland. Do consult her website, and her YouTube channel,
Among her short films, I note this documentary on the Centre for Muqam Transmission in Qumul, inaugurated in 2009 with UNESCO support, some years before the clampdown. The Centre, like others of its kind, makes a classic instance of staged commodification, a world away from Uyghur folk culture—showing how the Chinese state attempts to sanitise it through reification, under the insidious banner of “safeguarding”:
One senses the reservations of the senior muqam masters recruited to the Centre. What has become of such flagships for Uyghur culture amidst the current genocide?
It’s not that an autonomous Uyghur nation wouldn’t be capable of such reification. Such initiatives have long been common among independent nations in Central Asia and elsewhere.
Here’s Mukaddas Mijit’s artistic tribute to her parents’ hometown of Ghulja—long among the flashpoints for ethnic tension in the region, and the site of a 1997 massacre:
She also pays attention to Uyghur rock music—here’s the band Qetig, recorded in Urumqi:
Meanwhile the fate of Uyghur culture at the grassroots—life-cycle observances, pilgrimages, and village celebrations like the mäshräp—looks bleak.
For a recent conference at SOAS on “Surveillance and repression of Muslim minorities: Xinjiang and beyond”, click here.