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Mugats - The Life of Central Asian Gypsies is an on-going documentary project on Mugat societies who are dispersed to several regions in Central Asia. In 2006, Sema Balaman and her team has embarked on a mission of visual-ethnography, and so far, the project has covered several countries including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, documenting the everyday lives, traditions and language of Mugat societies.

For centuries –and up until to this day-, Central Asia has been a melting pot of various tribes and cultures, among which the Russian, Turkic, and the Persian being the most dominant ones. All societies in the region are shaped by the influence of these cultures at different degrees and the result is a region populated with various multicultural societies.

On a closer look, the documentation intends to capture the characteristics of Mugat 's social life and the various multicultural elements that it embodies and reflects: Gypsy identity, Traditions, Turkic folklore, Soviet ideology, Zoroastrian, Islam-Sufism and pre-Islamic beliefs among others. Their identity is further influenced by past and current political and social conditions. But, above all, the main factor that redefines Mugat’s social codes and seasonal migration patterns today is the economic conditions. Despite all the common elements that it shares with neighboring cultures, it is still possible to recognize a distinct Mugat identity that resonates quite powerfully up to this day. The sad fact is that Mugat societies may not be able to resist to the global trend of cultural homogenization for long. The identity and language of tribal cultures such as Mugats are highly susceptible to deterioration in a matter of decades. This realization was the main drive behind our efforts to archive as much material as possible before its too late and as to why we find it utterly important to document their culture.

For more information: www.centralasingypsies.net

Sema Balaman presented a paper at the GLS annual Conference that was held at the Institute of Ethnology Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia-between September 11-13 2014. Click here for more information.

Sema Balaman presented a paper titled "Mugats: A Distinct Existence" at the Gypsy Lore Society Conference on Gypsy Studies that took place at Strathclyde University, Glasgow-Scotland 12-14 September 2013. Click here for the abstract or visit https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwFvqsBgQJK1eWdKZ2JSVlpNLUU/edit

Sema Balaman presented a paper on Mugats at the annual conference of Gypsy Lore Society on September 21, 2012.

The "Mugats: The Mysterious People of the Central Asia" photography exhibition was held in Galatasaray Square, Istanbul between 19 September and 22 September, 2012.

See event poster here.


Mugats Exhibition Galatasaray Square Istanbul

Mugats Exhibition Istanbul 1

Mugats Exhibition Istanbul 2

Mugats Exhibition Istanbul 3


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