We’d be surprised if you’ve heard of a game called Kokpar. It’s played on horseback and it has its origins in ancient Kazakhstan.
The gruesome game is the national sport of the country and requires two teams to compete to carry a headless goat carcass – weighing no more or less than 66lbs – across the opposite line.
Thought to date back to the times of Alexander The Great and the battles that ensued between his army and the nomadic people of Kazakhstan, the latest solo exhibition at Andakulova Gallery, aptly titled 66 Lbs, dives deep into the sport’s origins, traditions of warfare and the depiction of battles in art throughout history.
The artist, Said Atabekov, was one of the pioneers of post-Soviet avant-garde art in 1980s Kazakhstan, and here he uses modern media, such as photography, film and jarring contemporary motifs, to create a traditional aesthetic of battle, but one also reminiscent of paintings produced during the Renaissance.
His photographs are taken from the centre of the action, and move between sweeping tableaux of mass movement and intimate close-ups of the riders. He’s reviving what is, essentially, an extinct art form, through a contemporary lens. Horses are no longer a tool of war, but Atabekov uses the them as a way to explore the complexities of the sport, its brutality and what it shows about our connections to each other.
While the game feels as though it belongs to another time, it addresses feelings of ritual and identity that many can still relate to, brought firmly into the 21st century by his unique, avante-garde style.
Free. Mon Mar 6 to Fri May 12. Open Sat-Thu 10am-7pm. Damac Park Towers, Unit 18, DIFC (04 385 9897).
Three more Upcoming exhibitions
Empires of Memory
Owais Hussain’s video installation explores themes of identity, displacement and memory through stacked steel trunks.
From Mar 13. Vida Downtown Dubai (04 428 6888).
Yasmina Alaoui & Yassine Mekhnache
The artists draw on their Moroccan heritage in this vibrant exhibition of abstract art.
From Mar 8. Opera Gallery, DIFC (04 323 0909).
International Women Photographers Award
A stunning photography showcase by women from across the world.
From Mar 8. La Galerie, Alliance Française Dubai, Oud Metha (04 335 8712).