Fables, Fairytales, and Feminism is an online virtual exhibition featuring the work of five artists from Central Asia: Gulnara Falyakhova, Roza Dzhangaracheva, Gulbaram Askarova, Marie Korovina, and Viktoria Tsoy. These women are artists, mothers, and teachers and use social media to spread their fantastic illustrations and paintings to a younger, digital audience. 

Gulnara is from Bashkortostan and creates charming digital illustrations based on her Bashkir and Tatar roots. Her iconic figure style featuring round bellies and long, hyperrealistic hair reminds viewers of the sweet playfulness of children’s books and Soviet-style greeting cards. On her social media page, you can find illustrations of the Tatar fairytale Stepdaughter or artistic interpretations of Turkic proverbs like “you can’t get lost without craft”.

Gulbaram draws from her Kazakh childhood and Tengri-oriented stories told to her as a child. Her pointillist sketches of Tengri are a modern take on an existential core belief in Turkic paganism. Like Gulnara, Gulbaram’s figures portray profound concepts in an innocent way for children to enjoy. Perhaps that is what makes these women artists shine – their ability to use art as a means for storytelling, with an emphasis on engagement for children.

Roza’s artwork has a child-like quality to them, inspired by her own children’s artwork. Her background in early education can be seen in her use of warm colors and pastel values. Similarly, Viktoria draws from photos and memories from her own childhood and depicts the magic seen in the ordinary. Summers at the dacha, the refreshment of watermelon on a picnic, and bare toes speak to a time of love and virtue that viewers can return to when they come to raise children of their own. 

Marie’s artwork depicts tales and fantasies from the Islamic world but invites viewers into the universality of these tales. With all five artists, magic and folklore are intertwined and an ethereal quality is present in the brushstrokes and linework. These artists remind us of the capabilities that the fantastical stories from childhood evoke and the power of the women who tell these stories.

Painting by Viktoria Tsoy

Gulnara Falyakhova

Illustrator based in Bashkortostan, Russia

You can follow Gulnara’s work on Instagram.

Roza Dzhangaracheva

Painter based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

You can follow Roza’s work on Facebook.

Click on the images to read our exclusive interviews with artists Roza Dzhangaracheva and Marie Korovina!

All interviews were conducted by Katherine Leung, January-March 2021.

Gulbaram Askarova

Illustrator based in Astana, Kazakhstan

Tengri is a heavenly spirit found in Turkic culture. The basis of Tengrism is the worship of the sun, sky, and other celestial bodies. Currently, Kazakhstan is a secular society with Islamic influences. Even though my parents were not religious, I was raised by a mix of Kazakh and Turkic pagan beliefs.

-Gulbaram Askarova

You can follow Gulbaram’s work on Instagram.

Marie Korovina

Painter based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

For me, ‘Silk Road’ is not only merely a trade route, but ultimately, a symbol of the exchange or marketplace of ideas found in works of art. My art is a reflection of what this Silk Road embodied. That road, or path, rather, is like a common cosmic sky in which two different cultures become one decorative melody.

-Marie Korovina

You can follow Marie Korovina’s work on her website.

Viktoria Tsoy

Painter based in Almaty, Kazakhstan

In all my travels and art adventures, there was a moment of mysticism, of total immersion in an environment. Every place has some magic. And these moments are now a part of who I am. These moments have enriched me and changed the way I see the world.

– Viktoria Tsoy

You can follow Viktoria’s work on Facebook.

This exhibit was curated by Katherine Leung, May 2021