For more than 5,000 years, Kazakh nomads worshipped Tengri, an all-encompassing god and a personification of the universe. The natural world was simultaneously Tengri’s temple, shelter, and divine chaos. Through these beliefs, Kazakh nomads made sustainable choices to maintain environmental balance. While nomadism is no longer practiced in Kazakhstan, the rich heritage and worldview it birthed continues to evolve, thrive, and influence daily life.
Since 2020, the Smithsonian and the Union of Artisans Kazakhstan have collaborated on a series of projects to engage youth in learning about and participating in this heritage. Birthed from these collaborations, Soul of Tengri brought the story of Kazakh heritage and creativity to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the National Museum of Asian Art.
Through demonstrations, workshops, performance, and a special fashion show event, this community of artisans illustrated how they persist and transmit knowledge, from one generation to the next, and from their home country to the diaspora in the United States.