Kyrgyzstan is a small Central Asian republic with a population of around 5 million people. Sharing borders with Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, within reach of Afghanistan and the Middle East Kyrgyzstan is situated at the heart of Islamic Central Asia.


The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a devastating impact on the Kyrgyz economy and severely weakened its already poor transport and communications networks. Landlocked and largely dependent on expensive air freight for external trade, poor economic and transport conditions have left the country heavily dependent on international aid.

I had been working with Kenesh Dzhusupov, Tamara Kudaibergenova and other researchers at the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy on an EU funded project since 2002 .When the Project ended in 2004 we had developed 4 new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Public health. But Kyrgyzstan is a very poor country and learning and teaching were seriously undermined by a lack of basic resources. I managed to find a small amount of research money from my own university and  we started to explore how students might use vcideo and photgraphy to carry out filed observations of social and health conditions in their local community. The students made a number of films including  this short film about a young boy working at the Osh Bazaar in the capital Bishkek. That was the start of what later became Visible Voice.

Visible Voice Kyrgyzstan

Travelling home from one of my visits to Bishkek a young Kyrgyz woman noticed that I was editing video on my laptop and asked me what I was doing. Her name was Nazgul Esengulova, and she was the Director of the Ak Terek Foundation, a local NGO working on projects related to bio cultural diversity, land management and community development. Nazgul told me about Ak Terek’s work in remote rural villages and invited me to get in contact with her the next time I was back in Bishkek.


Kenesh, Nazgul and I began the first Kyrgyz Visible Voice project in 2006 when we set out to explore the potential of using collaborative video and photography to research local community issues. Over a two week period we worked with the villagers helping them to make videos about their lives and the issues in the villages. The workshops were also part of an ongoing series of workshops on different topics related to land use, cultural and community development programme organised by Ak Terek.

Vincent O’Brien ©2016


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