Introduction

Narrative Objects: The Sakha Summer Festival and Cultural Revitalization

This project investigates the ways in which historic artefacts are tools for

  • Contemplating the past
  • Remembering collective practices of ethnic identity
  • Contributing to cultural revitalization – particularly in areas that have experienced political and ceremonial suppression

The regional focus is the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), in north-east Siberia. The project’s centrepiece is a unique mammoth-ivory model of an Ysyakh ritual, which has been in the collection of the British Museum since 1867.

The Ysyakh is the most significant annual holiday for the Sakha people, one of Siberia’s largest indigenous populations. During the Soviet era many Sakha cultural expressions were repressed – including the Ysyakh. Since the political transformations in the 1990s, efforts to revitalize Sakha heritage have generated considerable interest in pre-Soviet cultural forms. Accessing Sakha historic artefacts, now scattered in museums worldwide, is a crucial part of this revitalization. Using the model of the Ysyakh as a focus, this project will explore how historic objects can participate in projects of cultural renewal, inform artistic practice, and contribute to museum expertise.

 The model of a summer camp