Updated: Nov 5, 2019
We have been working together with local communities and local people for a long time. We often see it as mutually beneficial cooperation. However, we didn't think of we could be having fun together. Locals, especially camel and horse herders asked us to organize an event that includes us, them and lucky travelers who happened to be there on this special day. On September 30th, 2019, the very first Gobi Folk Festival was held in Nutsgen Steppe in Bulgan Village.
Turns out Gobi nomads are truly talented people. They just have been too busy herding their animals to study and follow their dreams. We decided to call the event “Gobi Folk Art Festival” to celebrate and find out where the talents are hidden. This year, the event was held in a theme of Gobi legends which might change into something fun next year. As we are a community-based society, teams were formed to present the performance of songs, dances, praises, and acts.
The festival was full of learning opportunities as the teams started to present their acts. The Dal performer had our jaws dropped with his amazing talent of traditional praise song which narrated a beautifully composed poem about how the Gobi came to be the way it was and more. The story behind the poem was inspiring and at the same time made us thinking about the controversies that Gobi people are facing in the fast-changing life in the countryside.
“Ev negdel” young fellows came from as far as Dalanzadgad, performed the legend about “Why Algui Ulaan Tsav”, one of the most amazing land formations in Gobi Desert earned such name. It was funny, it was informative and it was definitely worth watching. When the next team presented the legend of the zodiac in which camel and mouse competing for the first place in the traditional zodiac, we were amazed at how well prepared they were. It was a good thing a little girl who played the role of the mouse became the winner. The poor camel was standing there, still a little bit arrogant just like the story says.
Gobi people are so proud of their tradition to coax a mother camel to adopt a colt /a rare and treasured white colt/. When Khankhongor woman started singing, not only the camel and the colt, but the whole audience was captured by her beautiful voice and heartfelt compassion. Everybody including the mother camel had teary eyes.
The most famous legend in the Gobi is definitely about the camels! Camels once upon a time had magnificent antlers and sweeping tails. A rogue deer and a sly horse took advantage of the generous heart of a camel to trick their beautiful features. The poor camel never got them back. We were only very happy that he didn’t lose his two humps! Two teams presented this famous legend both in their own unique ways and the winner got the “Gobi Folk Art Festival Cup” that was designed and crafted by the local artist Battogtokh from Bulgan village. They looked genuinely happy to walk up the stage.
The festival continued with the horse skill challenges among Mongolian cowboys. Nutsgenii Tal is a well-known pasture for horse herders after all. They were demonstrating the great skills one after the other. At the same time, Gobi archers were competing for a target shooting, traditional style, and distance archery. The Gobi Folk Art Festival gave us the chance to reward the best students in the music program in Bulgan Village school. M.Enkhjin, G.Anujin, B.Enkhzaya got awarded for their commitment and dedication.
While we enjoyed the festival we were also making a statement! Gobi Folk Art Festival left no trash and no human traces in this spectacular steppe of Gobi Desert. The eco-toilet was away from the space with a handwashing sink, the parking spot, and the stage was set up without blocking the photo opportunities, and Dream Gobi Lodge provided us with delicious and safety assured meals. On this day, we made one big family of the audience, participants, artists, archers, travelers, school students, horse trainers, and camel herders. Thank you so much for everyone and see you next year.