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Revitalizing crafts in Kazakhstan

Yerzhan Tatishev Foundation, in co-operation with Eurasian Foundation for Central Asia (EFCA), realizes project aimed on supporting two regional information resources on crafts in Shymkent and Aktau cities. Project is fulfilled within the framework of revitalizing the crafts in Kazakhstan program, being realized by EFCA since 2005.

Craft is embodiment of culture of any nation. Even though Kazakhstan got ahead of its neighbors in development of economy, analysis of the crafts sector showed that the country takes last place among Central-Asian republics. This situation has very bad impact on such fields of economy as tourism and souvenirs production. Because of lack of local producers most souvenirs sold in Kazakhstan are manufactured in Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkey, China and Kyrgyzstan. For example, Kyrgyz productions are often sold as Kazakh thanks to similarity between traditional designs and paintings. These productions are very popular and of higher quality.

Craftsmen from regions of Kazakhstan live in information vacuum. Despite of the fact that they can produce very good souvenirs, lack of knowledge about the market and absence of access to market information doesn’t let them compete with producers in Almaty, Astana and neighbor countries. Local craftsmen stay unemployed and very often are very poor.

Big national research, performed by Eurasian Foundation for Central Asia in fall 2006, revealed need of Kazakhstan in development of crafts market and improvement of quality of production. Moreover, government of Kazakhstan is interested in supporting projects on saving national heredity. After considering various problems of the craftsmen and assessing perspectives of development of craft, EFCA, starting from 2006 with support of “Shevron Munaigaz Inc.” company and in interaction with Ministry of Culture and Information of RK started three-year program called “Revitalizing Crafts in Kazakhstan”.

Currently III part of the program is being realized, which will include a set of events, aimed to systematical development of Kazakhstani crafts sector, with future exports abroad. To localize the efforts, 2 regional information-resource centers will be created in Shymkent and Aktau cities. Within the framework of program technical equipment, organizing fairs and exhibitions, series of professional and technical trainings for craftsmen through abovementioned resource centers. Further plans include establishment of such centers for craftsmen all over Kazakhstan.

Concept of regional resource centers

Because of big distance between the craftsmen, partners plan to concentrate efforts in development of crafts through resource centers (RC). Later these centers are expected to unite in Craftsmen Association of Kazakhstan, basing on existing NGO in Almaty - OF “Our Heritage”. RC would be selected on the basis of competition among those already existing NGOs or groups of craftsmen, interested in developing crafts in their regions. According to the results of the research, in 2006 there were 107 Craft NGOs and groups. RC’s functions will include following:

  • Create and support Craft NGOs network in Kazakhstan (interaction with other regions, purchasing, printing special books, notifying of competitions, merchandises and other cultural events, where craftsmen can take part).
  • Support to craftsmen in realization of their products, technical and business consulting.
  • Organizing the merchandises, exhibitions, competitions for craftsmen.
  • Organizing technical trainings, master-classes for craftsmen, with local and foreign trainers.
  • Interaction with Department of Culture in akimats, museums, galleries, with experts, tour operators, and other interested persons and organizations to solve problems of the craftsmen and their promotion.
  • Popularization of crafts among the local people (publicity, participation in local cultural events, materials in mass media).
  • Searching and establishing access to raw materials.
  • Maintain connection with other resource centers in other regions of Kazakhstan
  • Organization of annual events in selection and promotion of local craftsmen’s products for UNESCO quality sign
  • Participation in conferences, forums, symposiums on crafts, new tendencies, and propagandizing it in regions
  • Rendering technical support to the craftsmen (access to Internet, computers, fax, printers, etc)
  • Interaction with tour operators in selling products on tour sights
  • Interaction with schools, youth art associations to attract young people to the crafts and finding new talents
  • Searching for financing the activities (government, grants, membership, own activity, business)
  • Organizing the work of art associations for assessment of crafts

Estimated results

  • Two resource centers in Aktau and Shymkent will contribute to the development of crafts in South and West Kazakhstan (through providing with the information about various events in crafts sphere; opening of access to special and reference information, internet; augmenting the professional level of craftsmen through technical trainings and master-classes; organization of local exhibitions and fairs; interaction with governmental departments, fundraising, etc);
  • Resource centers will be provided with necessary equipment and computers for the local craftsmen;
  • Trainers of the program will acquire and enrich their experience in conducting trainings and master-classes for the craftsmen;
  • Population of South and West Kazakhstan will be informed about their crafts and achievements through exhibitions and fairs, organized in appropriate regions;
  • Not less than 60 craftsmen will be educated through technical trainings, organized in South and West Kazakhstan, which will positively influence the quality of production;
  • It is estimated that about 200 craftsmen in both regions will attend to RCs;
  • Partner relationships will be established between craftsmen of the region, local and central governments and business;
  • Both regions-wide public will be informed about problems of crafts development and will be able to access quality craft products;
  • Youth of regions will be able to join to the crafts;
  • The fundament of national network for development of crafts will be established;
  • Familiarization of the craftsmen with new channels of selling their products, like local touristic places and sights and hence – increasing of sales;
  • Creating new employment places and development of entrepreneurship in the region.