Kyrgyz epic trilogy: Manas, Semetey, Seytek


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Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2013 by Aitysh Film

The Kyrgyz epic trilogy of Manas, Semetey and Seytek describes the unification of scattered tribes into one nation. The trilogy expresses the historical memory of the Kyrgyz people and survives thanks to a community of epic tellers, both women and men, of all ages. Narrators accept their calling after experiencing a prophetic dream, understood to be a sign from the heroes of the epic. During recitals they enter into a near-trance state and use special forms of narration, rhythm, tone and gestures to recreate the epic’s historical atmosphere. Continuous narration of the trilogy may last up to thirteen hours. Performances are held on various public occasions, from village events to national celebrations and holidays. Epic storytellers also provide moral and spiritual support to local communities and individuals during social events, conflicts or disasters. They consider the trilogy a cultural heritage for which they take personal responsibility. The trilogy helps young people to understand their own history and culture, the natural environment and the peoples of the world; it also provides them with a sense of identity. As a component of formal education, it promotes ideas of tolerance and multiculturalism. Transmission occurs orally from master to apprentice through non-formal education.