Traveller's Teacup

helping connect the world's stories
Posts Tagged ‘tajikistan’

my first book chapter

Its feels weird to say but now my video work is in a book by Routledge! In April 2012, I was invited by Stephanie Buechler and Anne-Marie S. Hanson to talk at the America Geographer’s Association (AAG) about the 2009 climate change video work we did in Tajikistan. After presenting our post-colonial collaborative video methodologies, I was invited to submit a paper, and today the book  A Political Ecology of Women, Water and Global Environmental Change has been launched.  I will again be at this year’s AAG in Chicago to launch it.

Our chapter titled “Pamiri Women and the Melting Glaciers of Tajikistan: A Visual Knowledge Exchange for Improved Environmental Governance Citt Williams and Ivan Golovnev”  explores cross-cultural understandings of environmental change through the collaborative use of audio-visual methdologies. Ivan Golovnev (Russian Visual Ethnographer and creative collaborator) and I outline some of the challenges associated with the co-creation of the work on location in the remote Pamir mountains in Tajikistan. We also take the opportunity to articulate a series of collaborative ‘international development communications’ protocols. Similar to the processes I learnt at CAAMA years ago, here are some of the protocols now in print for the consideration of others.

“The work outlined a set of guiding principles for collaborative knowledge production and researcher accountability. These principles include:

  1. recognition of co-production ownership and full participation;
  2. co-creation of visual script and study parameters;
  3. non-exclusive licensing of specific cultural materials respecting custodial and intellectual property;
  4. first person community storytelling and language translation;
  5. analysis and report editing on location with various community screening approvals;
  6. local language versioning;
  7. final community consent event;
  8. provision of a back-up hard disk copy of all materials created;
  9. regular feedbacks about report dissemination and
  10. the support and involvement of local representatives in international climate discussions.

If you would like to read the chapter, please let me know.

Pamir Women and the Melting Glaciers of Tajikistan: A Visual Knoweldge Exchange for Improved Environmental Governance. Citt Williams, United nations University, Tokyo, Japan and Ivan Golovnev, Institute of History and Archeology, Yekaterinburg, Russia.


Understanding and adapting to climate change requires recognition of the diversity of knowledge sources. Western climate science-to-policy paradigms paralyze public agency through elitist mechanistic science, market-driven governance decisions, and consumer skewed media networks. Such environmental governance is oppressive for peoples with different cultural configurations. The rise of Indigenous media has been a powerful repurposing of media instruments towards self-determination, dominant discourse resistance, and survival. We applied collaborative visual methods towards environmental change and activated marginalized knowledge systems and indigenous women’s voices. Our visual research (available at argues a multiplicity of cultural narratives improves human agency and equitable environmental governance.

A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive

A cemented plaque in front of Afghanistan’s Kabul Museum proudly states “A NATIONS STAYS ALIVE WHEN ITS CULTURE STAYS ALIVE”. Culture, with its seemingly intangible nature, i always think, is like a yoghurt that surrounds and permeates us. We ferment in its endemic-ness, its organic-ness… connecting to identity, language, place, race, religion, ethics etc. And as a live matter, culture shapeshifts as influences ebb and flow.

But, what of a country’s culture ripped apart by centuries of war?

Recently, whilst visiting Bonn, I managed to see the travelling exhibition “Afghanistan Surviving Treasures: a selected collection of the Museum of Kabul”.

In the summer of 2003, Afghanistan announced the discovery of several museum boxes in the presidential bank vault in Kabul. Inside these boxes were priceless artifacts rescued after being hidden 14 years earlier by National Museum workers during the chaos of civil war.

Amongst Bonn’s darkened air-conditioned rooms, glass cases glittered and glowed. Wide eyed, i glimpsed at the truly breathtaking Mesopotamian, Hindi, Hellenistic, Far eastern and Nomadic fusion 4000 years ago in Northern #Afghanistan . Each artifact radiating an important light from our intercultural roots.

Glass, ceramic, gold, wood and ivory were shaped by ancients hands into works of art – to be worn, used and traded across the euro-asian continent. Buried in the sands of Afghanistan are golden crowns with Korean designs, golden winged Greek cheribs complete with third eye Hindi Bindi, Siberian nomadic animalistic icons with Mesopotamian jewelled influence.

This collection is Afghanistan’s imperative cultural legacy. Its little publicised message runs thicker and deeper than popularised westernized references synonymous to this region: terrorism, warlords, narcotics, burkhas. This region was clearly an ancient New York. And 4000 years ago, it harboured an inter-cultural fusion – networked and  transmitted across land and sea trade routes  – which was a vital chain link for the entire euro-asian continent and beyond.

Its influence possibly reached your ancestors and somehow shaped your heritage too. I believe this region and its history holds an important key to understanding ourselves.

As fundamental religious doctrines and gutless US robot drone experiments explode and compete for the sands, resources and civilisations of Afghanistan, tears roll down my face. No empire has ever won a war in Afghanistan, yet families, landscapes and cultural matrixs are being blow apart, fragmented and traumatised for generations to come. There is so much positive heart work to be collaboratively done, with and for our Afghani people, I am just trying to stay a breast with these things, building courage and narrowing down who to ask where to start.

Certainly I do not agree with the way women are being systematically and violently brutalised into submission, nor do i agree with the fundamental extreme violence permeating from the war business in this region. What i do know is, I have met Afghanis in my travel, struggling to cross borders with their passports, doing daily business from donkey/battered 4wd, or standing up for what they believe in at international meetings. I know firsthand the Afghani kindness, family orientation, proud tribal heritage and most importantly, awareness of inter-humanity.

One day, I’d like to visit this collection again but at Kabul museum or on the site where they were uncovered. I’d like to be amongst Afghani children on schoool excursions, or general public visiting for leisure. These artworks will be taken care of by the hands and hearts of the good Afghani peoples. I hope for new generations of Afghanis, to glimpse, like me, at their ancestor’s belongings, and to understand, to see and dream towards an interconnected but respectfully diverse future. To stand proud on the planet, and contribute an Afghani perspective of who we all were and are.

As part funder of this exhibition, National Geographic have published an easy to navigate website map, which gives you geo-tagged information about each location and their treasures.

Below, I have embedded a National Geography trailer for this exhibit, where you can catch glimpse of the incredible heritage.  I have also included into this playlist a 6 part lecture series from the exhibition’s guest curator – American Archeologist, Dr. Fredrik Hiebert. Although I feel this lecture comes from a very American and western perspective (communicated as though Americans are the first civilisation to understand that preservation of cultural heritage is important), nevertheless, its a fascinating lecture helping English speakers to connect the dots of this region, its legacy and its influence on the worlds of yesterday and today.

Hiebert says, “One of the things that we are seeing in the 21st Century which i find really incredible and wonderful as an anthropologist and as a scholar of the world, is to see more and more people around the world who are becoming engaged with their cultural heritage … You know we have a lot of problems. We’ve got climate change, we’ve got ecomonic problems, we’ve got overpopulation … but you know, to think that we are beginning to understand about our own past, that’s really important, that gives me optimism about the future, for my kids for your kids, that we will use the past to help us better understand and take care of the world, as we move into the future”.

Video: Tajikistan’s Pamir Mtn peoples and glacial melt

Greetings from Irkutsk, Russia. Waiting in transit before heading into Mongolia.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the first of the three Central Asian Indigenous Perspectives of Climate Change videos. Might still have a few errors here and there, but should all be fixed before the video festival in Copenhagen in December. Feedback is welcome!


Here’s a picture from near Ziddi, a mountain community north of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. I am sharing the day with some of the beautiful local girls and my project’s video collaborator Professor Abdussator Saidov (Director, Institute of Zoology and Parasitology, Academy of Sciences, Tajikistan). We are interviewing some of the local elders about changes they have seen in the valley due to climate change. In the coming 30 years, all of the snow on the mountain behind, will be gone.

Greetings from Tajikistan!

i am here working on 3 stories about glacial and permafrost melt in Central Asia. A video in Tajikstan, then Kyrgyzstan and then Altai Republic. It is not a good outlook. On Thursday, i interviewed two top Tajikistan Climate experts.  It seems the Tajikistan glaciers here are melting just as fast as Antarctica, Greenland, and the Alps. They supply 60% of all Central Asia’s water! The local people are experiencing new weather systems (different from their traditional calendars), food security issues and later they will have issues with water supply. Along with this some local mountain fauna and flora will become extinct and human health issues will follow: TB, cardiovascular, fertility issues and malaria from Afghanistan plains now moving further in to the warmer mountain territories.

i have brought with me Russian filmmaker Ivan Golovnev (director Old man Peter) and we are collaborating with local NGO partners (Tajikistan Academy of Sciences) and community storytellers (like before in OZ, Borneo and Indonesia).

we have with us a little data projector, and whilst making the videos, we are holding small film festivals to share with local people some of the other global video stories of climate change community adaptation. hopefully through discussion, other UN agencies and local NGO partners we can plant some “adaptation” seeds with them.

it was my 33rd birthday yesterday and we went out to dinner to a Ukrainian restaurant. it’s nice to be back in Central Asia and using my basic russian. I got sick last week from a typical regional meal (chunks of BBQ meat and potatoes), but am getting better and now conditioning my iron stomach for the next three months of this kitchen. internet is not so great outside of dushanbe, but i will try to keep you updated and send video links where i can.   poka!!