Kosterkins were most powerful shamans in Avam tundra
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Kosterkins were most powerful shamans in Avam tundra

January 14, 2021

n the 21st century, the heritage of the last shamans is kept in the Taimyr museums.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The gold fund of the Taimyr House of Folk Art (THFA) – a collection of decorative, applied and fine arts – is directly related to the masters who at different times worked and are still working today in the Main Chum of Taimyr. This collection can be called nomadic, since the brilliant creations of Boris Molchanov, Motyumyaku Turdagin, samples of the unique tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of Taimyr, are in demand not only on their territory.

With great success, Taimyr people participate in the Treasures of the North International Exhibition-Fair  and the Nomad of the North all-Russian festival of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East. This year at the 15th anniversary exhibition in the exposition of the Krasnoyarsk region, watercolors and drawings by Motyumyaku Turdagin from the funds of THFA and bone carving products of the Main Chum’s masters were presented. Alexey Chunanchar, a connoisseur of Nganasan song folklore, opened the holiday with a shamanic ritual.

Alexey Chunanchar is performing at the Treasures of the North International Exhibition-Fair

In the shamanic costume of the THFA’s bone carver, the headdress draws attention – it has been kept in the Main Chum since 1995. The shamanic dress of Alexey Chunanchar is imitation, and the headdress is authentic. It was made by Leonid Kosterkin, the last of the Taimyr shaman dynasty. He died ten years ago, in 2011, two decades after the death of his father, Tubyaku Kosterkin.

To some extent, the shamanic gift passed to Leonid, who took part in his father’s rituals from childhood. Tubyaku wanted to make him a successor, but his son refused at first. A shaman costume, a tambourine, a mallet and some of Tubyaku’s idols were sold to the Taimyr Museum of Local Lore several years before his death.

Leonid Kosterkin’s headdress which is used by Alexey Chunanchar in shamanic performances nowadays

Residents of Ust-Avam, where the Kosterkin dynasty mainly lived, began to come to the descendant of the shamanic clan with requests for treatment for colds, bruises, and cuts. According to the legend, his grandfather, father, aunt and uncle helped the most hopeless patients. Leonid also succeeded. Over time, he made a tambourine, a mallet, a headdress, and his wife made a suit for him.

In the Taimyr Museum of Local Lore, they still remember how they took out the costume of Leonid’s father from the showcase for him to perform the ritual of feeding the spirits, which is very important in the traditional Nganasan culture. Greasing the idol’s mouth with fat and sprinkling with alcohol was accompanied by rituals. According to the doctor of art history Oksana Dobzhanskaya, who was present at such rituals (both in the museum and in the Main Chum), only Tubyaku’s shamanic songs were always heard.

To some extent, though not as confidently and powerfully as his father, Leonid Kosterkin preserved part of his people’s heritage.

Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Taimyr House of Folk Art

January 14, 2021

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