Saturday, 19 June 2010


My little niece Lidia is born under the constellation Aquarius and she is a water freak. She was promised a trip Tashkent when I come to visit, to Aquapark, the famous aquatic fantasy of my childhood.

We are back this afternoon and today is the hottest day that I can remember. As our heated beyond all limits taxi rolled on melting asphalt away from blurry from the heat border, I looked out of the car window at the sun-burned steppe, and only one thought could console me: I've got Nostalgia.

Here is the story. Stealing a few hours from our amusement program (amusement takes a lot of energy and time!) I took a taxi to “Broadway” street; in my student years it was the center of art, culture, and night life of Tashkent. Things have changed since then.
The area close to the presidential palace is cleaned up, reconstructed, and…fenced. Wide, clean, and empty streets; monumental, well-lit buildings create an impression of one endless mausoleum.

I miss the noisy, kitschy Broadway; but marching along unrecognizable quiet streets I find a few art dealers. Looking through hundreds of canvases I notice a small painting which is standing out among the others, or rather it looks a little lonely there. Something in it touches me deeply, but I can’t quite place it… Perhaps it makes me think of me and my sister (I would have been the half-headed one…). Or the sad fox on the background reminds me of the little prince. I pick it up and guess what? The author is born and grew up in Tajikistan. All become even clearer to me when I find out the title... “Nostalgia”.

I want to know the artist.  The very next day I steal few more hours from our amusement program, and meet Bakhtiyor Umarov. We talk. He shows me a catalog of his works: canvases radiate humor and optimism; his personages are grotesque, naïve, and full of life.

He explains: "“Nostalgia” is somewhat different, experimental..." He exposed in London and Paris. And he is extremely modest. I want to see more of his work. Bakhtiyor gives me addresses of galleries I can visit. He signs “Nostalgia” for me, we say “Goodbye”, and I hail another taxi to dart across the city to Art Gallery Caravan One to have a look at this painting.

Time rolls a few centuries back as I step inside the Caravan One. Tasteful design, hand-made fabrics and tableware, beautiful paintings on the walls - inevitablly with Oriental aura - everything breathes history and tradition.

I am fifteen minutes early for a vernissage; I am invited and I stay. Airy and detailed graphic drawings hung in the courtyard are by Khilola Shermatova, it is her vernissage tonight. She is beautiful and radiant; Peri is the first word which comes to mind...

People arrive. Even the shower doesn’t seem to spoil the magic, on the contrary, it feels like a good omen.

I feel a little emotional all of a sudden; my freedom, my “rootlessness” doesn’t seem like an advantage anymore, it feels, well, lonely. Perhaps it is only nostalgia; perhaps it is time to go home…

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