Poetry and Permaculture
By Jheri St. James
Hamadon ba mulki Khatlon khob ast,
Andar barash oftobi tobon khob ast.
Said Muhammad on guhari poknazhot,
Khujistaliqo mohi Khuroson khob ast.*
is in the south of Tajikistan on the way to Kurgan Teppa”
(best77 on www.flickr.com)
order to understand Tajik culture it is necessary to look
back to the time of Transoxiana (an area that lies between
the Amu Darya and Sir Darya rivers and modern northwest Afghanistan),
and the centers of civilization of the Nile, Mesopotamia and
the banks of the Yangtze. The Tajik’s ancestors were
Scythian proto-Indo-European tribesmen, nomads of the Eurasian
steppes, and were among the first to settle in Central Asia,
about 4,000 years ago. Historically, Tajiks and Persians share
a mutual language and are related as part of the larger group
of Iranian peoples. Tajik culture can be divided into two
areas—Metropolitan and Nishopur Khiva (no longer part
of the country). More modern centers include Dushanbe (the
capital), Khudjand, Kulob, Panjikent and Istarvshan.
is known for being intolerant of various religious faiths,
carrying out actions such as banning certain religions outright
and demolishing religious buildings. Tajikistan became completely
independent in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union,
and is now in the process of strengthening democracy and transitioning
to a free market economy. The country remains the poorest
in the former Soviet sphere. Tajikistan is in the early stages
of seeking World Trade Organization membership and has joined
NATO’s Partnership for Peace.
who thought about me or missed me,
Let God be his friend,
Everyone who didn’t appreciate us,
Let him benefit from life,
Everyone who did harm as an enemy,
All flowers that flourish, let’s be non-spiniferous.
In the two worlds we don’t have enmity.
Everyone who hurts us, let him have a lot of pleasure
of a Tajik poem by Manizha Tilavova, friend of Common Ground
soil collector was Mr. Mukaddas Kurbanova, a member of the
Assistant Communication Office of UNICEF in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
UNICEF is the United Nations Children’s Fund, working
so children worldwide can be nurtured through education, medical
care and protected environments.
was made from an area called Khatlon, where there is a mausoleum
of Mir Said Hamadani (also known as Shah-e-Hamadan), a Persian
poet and prominent Shafi’I muslim scholar, very prominent
in spreading Islam in Kashmir. Khatlon is the most populous
province in Tajikistan; its capital is the city of Qurghonteppa.
With a total population of 2,149,500,000 in 2000, this is
a large city with the population mainly engaged with agricultural
activities, especially cotton growing and cattle raising,
both activities of the soil. Only two to three percent of
the population works in the industrial sector.
wrote to us on January 16, 2007. “I heard about your
project from a colleague of mine, Bobur Turdiev, from UNICEF
Uzbekistan office. I’m not really aware about it and
don’t know what is expected from our side. But will
be mostly happy to contribute to make sure more people would
know about Tajikistan. Thanks and best regards, Mukaddas”.
On the 29th, his email read, “I plan to go on 6 February
to the south part of the country, where we have a number of
historical sites. If this will not be too late, we can collect
the soil there and send it to you. Let me know if this suits
(Map of Khatlon Location)
went on a long journey, somewhat longer than the geographical
distance from Tajikistan to the U.S. On the 12th of March,
2007, the State Quarantine Office of the Republic of Tajikistan,
State Inspection on Quarantine of Plants in the Republic of
Tajikistan, issued its Certificate of Quarantine Expertise
to Mr. Muhammed Khajaeva Parvenna for the “soil from
the square of the mausoleum of Mir Said Ali Hamdoni, Kulab
city of Khatlon Oblast” for the destination point, “Laboratory,
Los Angeles, USA, for presentation in the World exhibition
of soil from 191 countries.” It was stamped, signed,
x-rayed and fumigated by the Head of Laboratory, Sr. Agriculturist.
papers in the file are in the Tajik language, but whatever
they say, the soil was placed in the hands of DHL on March
14, 2007 from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, from where it went to
London, then on to New York City, where it hit another clearance
delay from March 19 to April 3, finally shipping again to
Westchester, California. All that for a box of dirt. ‘Whew!’
in any language…and sincere appreciation for all the
people involved in choosing, collecting and sending this particular
sample of Mother Earth.
Tajik literature and its history is colored by issues of standardization
of the Tajik language. Tajik literary centers include the
cities of Bukhara and Samarkand (currently in present-day
Uzbekistan). During the Soviet era, the principle literary
output was social-realist in nature. Tajiks in Tajikistan
describe all major literary works written in Persian until
the 20th century as Tajik, regardless of ethnicity and native
region of the author.
Zoroaster was born in the Balkh area. Zoroastrianism was adopted
by Persian emperors as a state religion and was practiced
in central Asia until being overrun by the Arabs. The Shahs
of Somoni made Bukhara their residence and a focal point for
art and science as well as an administrative center. In this
period, the personal interest and support of the Shahs in
the arts and sciences, along with international trade, and
the relatively stable political situation in the Silk Road
region, all contributed to Tajik literature, art and science
at its zenith.
cultural revival came 1000 years after the Samanid period,
this time due to the Soviets (1860-1917). They introduced
modern drama, opera and ballet. Since independence, there
has been a revival attempt to foster a sense of national identity.
Novelist Taimur Zulfikarov and professors Rahim Masov and
Bozor Sobir are prominent in these efforts.
celebration to come from the pre-Islamic period is Navruz,
which means, “New Day”. On March 21 or 22, the
cultivation of the land begins, and many families visit relatives,
throw out old belongings, clean house and play field games.
Special dishes are served and other pre-Islamic Tajik traditions
like fire-jumping, dancing around the fire, and fighting ‘devils’
with fire still occur in the more remote regions.
Statue to Ismail
Somoni, national hero of Tajikistan
word "permaculture" was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison,
an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren.
It is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or
"permanent culture." Permaculture is about designing
ecological human habitats and food production systems. It
is a land use and community building movement, which strives
for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate,
annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into
stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these
elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created
among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This
synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in
nature. This little photo album says so much about the country
of Tajikistan, its spontaneous permaculture, and place in
the panoply of countries on this earth, resting place of all
humans, living and not living--artists, writers, farm workers,
politicians, men/women, young/old….”one picture
is worth a thousand words”…except for poetry.
a lot of soil in Tajikistan. It took several weeks to get
this shipment of about two cups to the studio of Gary Simpson,
conceptual artist for Common Ground 191. Some time was spent
researching the writing of Mir Said Ali Hamadani, with no
luck online for some time. Then, at the last minute, Manizha
Tilavova sent this:
of Hamadon is sleeping in Khatlon,
Sun is shining next to him.
Said Mohammad is that clean priceless one,
Like a moon of Khuroon is sleeping.
(*Translation of poem in Tajik at beginning.)
for peace in Tajikistan is “sulh”, and we wish
“sulh” to our collector and to Tajikistan.
photos came from www.flickr.com)