Hamtdaa: Together, an exhibition of art and culture of the Mongolian people of Arlington, opened Thursday night at Artisphere. Drawing on his extensive experience in mask making, costume design, and performing arts, Arlington-Mongolian artist Gankhuyag Natsag has created colorful, vibrant masks and costumes for characters from Mongolian popular and religious culture. This hugely impressive exhibit features lavish, life-sized works that preserve a cultural heritage nearly lost during the Soviet period of Mongolian history. The exhibition also includes some of Gankhuyag's contemporary, conceptual paintings.
The exhibition opening itself was a major event. Beautifully costumed Mongolians greeted attendees and mixed with the large crowd. Defying the Terrace Gallery's concrete floor, Mongolian dancers whirled and jumped through evocative dance performances. D. Odbayasakh added an amazing performance of contortionism. She began training at age 7 and continues to perform even after having had a child. Exhibition organizer Mary Briggs, who worked for two years to secure funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and to organize the exhibit, spoke of her enjoyment in working with the Mongolian community. She also noted that a cultural documentation project is associated with the exhibit. A top official from the Mongolian embassy addressed the attendees and declared the Mongolian government's support for cultural exchanges. Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola added words of support and thanks.
Mongolians have a major presence in Rosslyn and Arlington. Mongolian is the third-most common language, behind only English and Spanish, among Arlington County public schoolchildren. Rosslyn is home to the Mongolian School of the National Capital Area. In 2009, a Mongolian received a Rosslyn Neighborhood Hero of the Week award. Thus Rosslyn in Arlington is a particularly appropriate place to have this international-caliber exhibit of Mongolian art and cultural heritage.
A variety of Mongolian cultural activities for adults and children will be at Artisphere this month in conjunction with the exhibition. Check out the related activities schedule here. Hamtdaa: Together will be in Artisphere's Terrace Gallery through May 1, 2011. Don't miss this exhibition!
[video included in post above]