22 April 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

The Kyrgyz epic ‘Manas’ manuscripts were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World

Manuscripts of the Kyrgyz epic “Manas” by narrator Sagymbay Orozbakov have been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register. This is Kyrgyzstan‘s first nomination in the Memory of the World program.

On 8 June 2023, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov, received the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who arrived in the country on an official visit.

This documentary heritage is the manuscript of the epic “Manas” told by narrator Sagymbay Orozbakov. The epic Manas is a trilogy, “a biographical cycle of three generations of heroes, Manas, his son Semetei and grandson Seitek.

The epic “Manas” is a documentary heritage of the Kyrgyz people, their national pride, identity, and historical memory, traditionally delivered in an exclusively oral way. The recording of the epic “Manas”, made from 1922 to 1926, was the first specially planned and organized in the country.

The choice to record Sagymbay Orozbakov’s version was conditioned by his popularity among the people, his knowledge of the epic “Manas” in all completeness, his high artistry, and his outstanding level of performance. In a group of narrators, he is believed to be the best and identified as the “classical”. His version of the epic is still considered the fullest and most artily valuable.

Photo: UNESCO

Recording of the epic was significant and timely as it was the period of transition of the Kyrgyz people from a nomadic way of life to the settled which posed a threat of the disappearance of the oral transmitting of the epic heritage. Therefore, the recording of the epic was vital and necessary to transfer the oral narration to paper and to give the second breath of life to it in book form.

The manuscript consists of 10 handwritten books. In a group of narrators, Sagymbay Orozbakov believed to be the best and identified as the “classical”. His version of the epic is still considered as the fullest and artily valuable.

The monumental epic Manas is the most treasured expression of the national heritage of the Kyrgyz people. Composed and sung entirely in oral form by various singers throughout the centuries, Manas is regarded as the epitome of oral creativity. Although as yet not widely known, Manas is considered to be one of the greatest examples of epic poetry. As nomads, the Kyrgyz had no written language. However, they excelled in oral composition, which they artistically employed in their traditional poetry and epic songs.

Cover Photo: UNESCO / President.kg (CC BY 3.0 IGO)

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