In the past a few days, this song went viral on Kazakh social media. It expresses the transnational sorrow of Kazakhs from China’s Xinjiang, who are now stranded in Kazakhstan and separated from their families. “Shekara” (pronounciation chegara) means border in the Kazakh language, here it specifically refers to the Sino-Kazakhstan border.
This is Tahir Hamut, one of the most renowned contemporary Uyghur poets, starting his life all over again in US at 47 years old. Displacement is not just the physical removal of one’s body from their native land. In the film, the psychological stress of uprooting and struggling hides in the silent gestures of his performance. Tahir is still writing, he writes poignantly about the distance between all the capital cities in which he has lived his life: Urumqi, Beijing, and Washington DC. The experiences of everyday life as an exile, a transnational being, struggles with immigration paperwork, survival, and witnessing the violence in homeland from afar… still linger and shape his poetry.
The mounting evidences of artificial intelligence surveillance and arbitrary detention in Xinjiang exacerbated the already tense public anxiety due to the worsening human rights condition in Kazakhstan. Surveillance becomes one of the key themes in artistic expression in Kazakhstan civil society.
On December 9, 2019, Kazakhstan National Security Committee announced the decision that Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly, two young Kazakh men who fled Xinjiang, will be deported to China. This angered Kazakhstan public. A civil group took to action.
Minam began to collect stories from the Uyghur diaspora to send to human rights organizations. Very quickly, she was inundated by the intense pain in these stories. They all have a common theme: family separation. “I don’t know if they are alive or not,” has become a catchphrase to describe the broken state of diaspora Uyghur family life, the same goes for many Xinjiang Kazakh refugees who fled to Kazakhstan.
“Anjur (fig fruit)—is one of my favorite fruits! It always reminds me of my home and my beloved father! I ate my first fig fruit from my family’s orchard many many decades ago… now it all becomes memory!”
Aziz Isa Elkun traveled through Central Asia and the taste of anjur opened up a portal to his past, however, this past sweetness was immediately cancelled by the brutal present. Just several hundred kilometers away across China’s border, his family’s whereabouts is unknown.
Yangisar on the abyss poses questions for the people who are forced into an exiled, stateless life, a life in which everyday existence is precarious and uncertain just like in this picture.