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Artist in Kyrgyzstan using coffee to express Kyrgyz identity
Kyrgyzstan | culture | 15:49, 16 April 2018 | 1945

AKIPRESS.COM - Coffee is a powerful force in human history – it unites people, transcends cultures, and kindles the imagination.

Bishkek artist, Nurlan, however, closed this gap and gave coffee a more prominent role in his art when he began to experiment with using coffee as a medium.

“I worked at a coffee shop for 4 years, making Lattes, Americanos, and Cappuccinos. I thought, ‘why not try?’ Coffee and paints have similar consistencies. Initially, I attempted to paint with Espresso, however, Espresso did not come out bright enough and it was difficult to manipulate. Then, I tried with instant coffee (Nescafe) and it worked perfectly! I could create different tones and my pictures turned out brighter. For example, if I want light tones, I add more water and add more coffee if I want the color to be darker,” said Nurlan to Toby A. Cox for National Geographic.

Nurlan mixes coffee and art to create portrayals of life in Kyrgyzstan. His artwork focuses heavily on the beauty around Kyrgyzstan in both nature and traditional Kyrgyz designs. He is inspired by Kyrgyz culture and by his feelings of patriotism.

Currently, he is working on a series that addresses the flow of people emigrating, or wanting to emigrate, from Kyrgyzstan. Most often, people from Kyrgyzstan go to Russia, Turkey, or Kazakhstan to study or to find work to support their families, but also sometimes go to Germany, the United States, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few. In many of these cases, those who emigrate do so because they do not have a choice, given the high unemployment rates in Kyrgyzstan. But to those who do emigrate, whether by choice or not, Nurlan has a question: would you ever come back?

“There will be around 20 pictures in this series. When I am done with all of them, I want [Kyrgyz] people to answer for themselves whether they would come back to Kyrgyzstan. Would they come back to Kyrgyzstan despite having a good job, high salary, nice house, and a family in a foreign country?”

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Toby A. Cox is a 2017-2018 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow exploring the story of Islam and religious identity in Kyrgyzstan.

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