Nomadic School of Traditional Knowledge and Creativity


The Buryats who number approximately half a million, are  one  of  the  largest  indigenous peoples  of  Inner  Asia.  They have a rich and ancient culture with their history, spirituality, worldview, lifeways and a shared landscape. However, during the past century, the Buryats as a nation have experienced disturbances and disruptions that continue to threaten them to this day. The deeply divisive  political  power  struggle has forcibly driven the previously strong  Buryat  union  of  nomadic  Mongolian-speaking  tribes  into the  three  neighboring  nation-states:  Russia,  China  and  Mongolia. Today,  many  communities  of  the divided  Buryat  nation  are  facing  serious  issues  of  self-determination and loss  of  traditions. Massive and effective assimilation has resulted in the loss of sense of identity and very importantly, the Buryats’  native  language.

In  the  heart  of the  Yazguur  (or roots and origin) program  is the commitment  to provide guidance to the Buryat  youth who are  in  search  of their identity and  their  rightful  place  especially that their ancestry or the  lineage of  Buryat generations has to be traced and affirmed in the modern world. With the disruptions in their historical processes and socio-cultural practices, the preservation and continuity of knowledge  and  value  systems need urgent attention and re-creation.  The  project  is  reawakening  the  indigenous  creativity,  original  thinking,  and  the  natural sense  of  belonging  to a  particular culture. History and traditions of the indigenous peoples are being reclaimed and transferred to the Buryat young generation, with the aim of strengthening their ties to their native land.


The program implementers of the Nomadic Schools of Creativity and Arts immersed in the  cultural  spaces  of  nomadic Buryats  of  Mongolia, where they interacted with  elders  and  indigenous  cultural  practitioners. Their purpose was to restore their relationships with nature and the environment, and to connect with, be grounded on native landscapes.

Following the classroom learning structure, the children’s interest in arts was particularly observed where they translated the knowledge they gained and the information they learned into creative works. Classes  were held for various  age  groups of  younger  and  older  children with  gender  balance noted and considered, regardless of social  status. Both Buryat and Russian children expressed interest and enthusiasm in the learning process. Buryatia’s  indigenous  residents also were included and they appreciated the new  knowledge they  acquired about the  main features of  the  Buryat  Zurag  arts  tradition.


The project was instrumental in strengthening inter-generational relationships where the  traditional  role  of  elders  in  child-raising  was  observed  and  strengthened. Inside the classroom, an innovative program using indigenous approaches to child-rearing was developed, while renewing and restoring traditional artistic expressions of the Buryat identity.

The  Nomadic Arts  School members visited  herder  camps and invited  parents  who enthusiastically participated in the education program, with the parents noting that they did not have such opportunities in their  childhood.

The implementers had to schedule activities based on the children’s availability which was on weekends when they could travel to participate in the program. The frequency of classes had to be adjusted according to the children’s school workloads. With Buryatia’s winter climate posing difficulties, classes were conducted during a warmer season when school children had a lighter school load.


The project Nomadic School of Yazguur Creativity is ongoing to this day, with interesting new situations that pose fresh insights and challenges. What remains constant is the interest and involvement of the children and the elders who express consistent appreciation because of the learning opportunities gained from the project. Such a distinctive program is indeed appreciated when it is yielding amazing results in preserving traditional knowledge and enhancing inter-generational understanding, as manifested by the Buryat people.  


(The project Nomadic  School  of  Yazguur  (Roots,  Sources) Creativity  is being implemented by the Initiative Group  of  Yazguur Buryat  Cultural  Practitioners with support from PAWANKA Fund.)