The landscape speaks

Mapping the Karakol valley

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Research on the way the inhabitants of the Karakol valley view their landscape.

The Landscape Speaks is a mapping pilot in the Karakol Valley, a 40 km long wrinkle in the Altai Mountains in the very centre of Asia. Situated in Russia, it is connected with Altai traditions in nearby Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia as well. The Landscape Speaks is an initiative of Arita Baaijens with Slow Research Lab.

In August 2016 the seminar “Karakol Valley – The Landscape Speaks” took place to study this landscape from within. Participants from the valley took the effort to leave their hay making for a moment and join a few foreigners (writer Arita Baaijens, Bas Pedroli, landscape ecologist and Marjolijn Boterenbrood) in carefully observing their own Karakol landscape. In a few days we collected an astonishing amount of observations, stories and objects, and tried to exercise in ‘close reading’ which character of the Karakol Valley emerged from this rich material.

Various layers of perception can be identified in the Karakol landscape, that can be represented by many thematic maps.  Every map shows a new perspective, reflects a further layer of perception.

This booklet and maps are an interpretation of (a small part) of the material that has been collected and of the work done, it is meant as an impulse for the further exploration of the values of the Altai landscape, in particular the Karakol Valley. Thanking the Altai people for their hospitality and for sharing their stories with us, we hope it can help strengthening the Altai identity and the development of the precious Karakol landscape.

This project is made possible by WWF an the Iona-Stichting


Participants of the Seminar ‘The Landscape Speaks’
in august 2016 in the Karakol valley:

Dr. Chochkina Maya Petrovna, of the Altai University in Gorno-Altaisk. Expert culturel meaning and ritual use of flora and fauna in the Altai

Kydyeva Oksana Vladimirovna, interpreter and Altai-specialist

Tadyrova Lyubov Michaylovna, psychologist and teacher in the Karakolvalley

Tokhtonova Marina Michaylovna, inhabitant Karakolvalley, employee etnografic museum in the Karakolvalley

Toziyakova Irina Aleksandrovna, interpreter and Altai-specialist

Unukov Anatoliy Makovich, advisor of Danil Mamyev

Dr. Zhernosenko Irina Aleksandrovna, Barnaul University, Filosofy, advisor of Uch Enmek Naturepark

Marjolijn Boterenbrood, artist, artistic research resulting in cartografy of specific places.

Mamyev Danil Ivanovich, geologist, founder and directeur of Uch Enmek Naturepark (Karakolvallei), founder studycentre AruSvaty, host seminar

Dr. Bas Pedroli, landscape-ecologist universitety of Wageningen.

Wayne Poulsen, architect, artist, participant in programs with native and herding communities of Central Asia

Organising team

-Drs. Arita Baaijens, biologist, writer and Altai-specialist Initiative, projectleader

-Prof. Yuri Badenkov, geologist, Russian Academy van Science

-Prof. Matthijs Schouten, biologist, filosopher, university van Wageningen


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