Hamburg Museum of Ethnography is one of the best known in the world and the largest in Germany. Its director, professor Doctor Wulf Koepke conducted research among native tribes in North America, and he also studied the traditions of Mordva (Erzya, Moksha). He is well acquainted with myths and rituals of Tuvan shamans.
Remember that 13 years ago, a delegation from Tuva which included shamans, led by Professor Mongush Kenin-Lopsan went to Hamburg and even conducted a purification ritual of Koepke's home and his collection, and also treated patients.
The day of presentation of "Schamanengesange aus Tyva" (Algyshes of Tuvan shamans) of famous Tuvan scholar, Professor Mongush Kenin-Lopsan was chosen well. The day of 10 February was cold but sunny in Hamburg, but in Tuva everybody was celebrating Shagaa. The museum staff gave the visitors the chance to view pictures placed on stands in old-fashioned Hansa modern style (finished in 1912), some black-and-white, some in color (acrylic). These are works of Alexandra Uccusic, the illustrator of the new book.
In the conference hall, Paul Uccusic, the publisher and editor of the book, told the audience in detail about the birth of this work. As the professor walked around Tuva, colleting songs and legends, myths and superstitions from shamans and story-tellers, as well as from herders, workers, teachers and musicians. This material gives some idea of the genuine and ancient traditions of Tuvan shamans and their "songs". And all that was collected with great effort, over obstacles presented by officials who were atheist.
During Paul Uccusic's speech, people, of whom there was a large gathering, applauded and expressed gratitude to the publishers for the opportunity to become acquainted with unique works of Mongush Kenin-Lopsan in German, to whom they wished all the best. Some would like to see him in Hamburg again, but the visitors understood that the elderly professor does not have this possibility.
Paul Uccusic also thanked the Austrian team who prepared this publication with great enthusiasm, without any pay for their work. This includes the translator, Isolda Schmitt, editor of the book Andreas Hirsch, artist-illustrator Alexandra Uccusic, author of the cover and emblem Judith Nicolucci, Natasha Uccusic, who was responsible for correctures and proof-reading, which was especially difficult because of Tuvan names of the informants. Special thanks were expressed to Mrs. Aldynai Seden-Khuurak, for her help with filming the purification ritual. She was also responsible for a part of the translation from Tuvan to English.
There was also information about the latest data about economic situation in Tuva, presented by Dina Oyun, which showed evidence of increased income of the population, and told of the realities of today's life of Tuvan shamans, in the "Dungur" association as well as in other shamanic organizations. The audience showed high interest in this information.
An important fact: the shamans have to supply funds from their modest incomes to keep the buildings where their organizations are located, and take care of administrative expenses. Paul and Roswitha Uccusic and Isolda Schmitt turned their attention to this during their visit to Tuva n December 2011.
The 100-year-old building needs renovation, and new rooms are necessary to increase the quality of the shamans' work. Support from the government, unfortunately, is not sufficient.
In the second part of the program, cinema and video films about the work of Tuvan shaman were introduced. Heinz and Edda Sivers, representatives of Hamburg, filmed materials about shamanic "kamlanie" in October 2000 on videotape; an excerpt from this 45-minute work was shown to the audience. Heinz has meanwhile died, but Edda found the courage to be at this presentation. Their work received an enthusiastic response for the contribution to widening of the knowledge of Western European audience about a different culture. It is interesting that the purification ritual was shown at the same place where it was actually performed by shamans Saryglar Borbak-ool, Nikolai Oorzhak and Nina Syrat ( they did not forget to remember the important role of translator Rollanda Kongar).
With the help of the "Dungur" association and its shamans Zoya Akazhik, Anisya Mongush, Gennadiy Saaya and Adyg-ool Khertek, two videos were published with recordings of contemporary rendition of algyshes in classical style and with small adjustments made by the shamans to adapt the texts to this or that situation.
"You can't understand anything about Tuvan shamanism without knowing the algyshes," - wrote Mongush Kenin-Lopsan. To give this chance to a large circle of interested people , authors of this publication included the texts of four algyshes in English, translated by Aldynai Seden-Khuurak.
The DVD presents all the short documentaries from 1993-1995, which have become historical material, including those filmed in the apartment of Alexander Tavakai. The photo showing him in a shaman's costume from the National Museum of Tuva decorates the cover of the book; the story about a healing séance for a child, led by shaman Kanchyyr-ool Sailyk-ool at the Cheder lake; part of a funeral ceremony on Mt. Khaiyrakan, performed for deceased Professor Heimo Lappalainen in 1994 by shaman Kyrgys Khuurak. Watching this material made a strong impression on the presentation audience.
During the intermission and after the film showing, Alexandra Uccusic got to answer a multitude of questions about her illustrations. She said that she really sees Tuvan spirits, when she sits on the floor in front of the tripod (or, in rare cases, the canvas). She visited Tuva in 2003 as a participant of Foundation for Shamanic Studies expedition. Memories of this trip wondrously changed into images of spirits and
fantastic landscapes, which she simply documented on paper.
So this was the "confluence" of West and East that took place in Germany thanks to professor Koepke and Hamburg Museum - and great gratitude to them for it!!!