Born in Kazakhstan, Almagul Menlibayeva works in the city of Almaty and the surrounding vast steppes and mountains in which lie its history. Shaman myths, rituals of Mongolian invaders, Islamic traditions, customs of the steppe and recent Soviet past are the inseparable aspects of the modern Kazakh identity. Almagul Menlibayeva is greatly interested in these influences that often resurface when investigating the contemporary Kazakh reality. Her strong belief lies in the coexistence of these traditions without distinguishing a dominating one. Trained as a painter, Menlibayeva has received a very Soviet education as she describes it; her paintings were quite acknowledged locally, winning government prizes. However, the artist had an ambition to connect to the rest of the world and especially people outside her cultural context. Having realised the irrelevance of the skills learnt within the Soviet system, she decided to abandon painting and experiment with performance art, photography, video and film. Menlibayeva is among the first Post-Soviet generation of artists in Central Asia who raise metaphysical questions and try to rethink their belief system; a sensitive subject for all recently liberated nations due to the breakdown of USSR. Menlibayeva’s prime aim is to situate female identity in this new framework of national and cultural identity, often reviving vigorous female characters from the local myths and legends through modern technology. She portrays women as being responsible for preserving culture, the carriers and protectors of traditions and customs. Her research of homeland encompasses frequent travels around Kazakhstan, where she finds most set locations for her art.
Menlibayeva’s art is widely acknowledged, receiving attention from such institutions as MoMA, New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her artworks were also acquired by the Louis Vuitton collection. Menlibayeva was awarded the prestigious Kino Der Kunst award in 2013 for her Transoxiana Dreams (2011).
Interview with Menlibayeva