Blog Culture Matters

Apr 29
Inspirational culture projects from Mongolia

​Since 2005, from the beginning of SDC's culture small grants in Mongolia, Switzerland paid attention to the sector. Culture, artistic expression and diversity are seen as vehicles of social transformation. The culture projects is well aligned to SDC's culture and development policy, which states that promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue supports the inclusion of marginalised groups.

In the midst of the economic struggle of the recent years, Mongolia's cultural sector has been neglected and received little attention and support from the government. SDC's small grants supporting cultural initiatives have been greatly appreciated by many artists and art houses. The cultural support was also dedicated to encouraging and building up young and talented artists, resulting in increased youth participation in the society through art programmes.

The culture projects contributed to activities promoting Swiss-Mongolian cultural exchanges, in-between others the Francophone festival, Mongolia's jazz festival, and a fusion of Swiss jazz and Mongolian traditional music. All these and similar activities promoted Swiss presence and Switzerland's visibility in Mongolia. 

As a proven tool to selectively support local initiatives of groups or organizations representing genuine and local development concerns, the small actions primarily promote dynamic actors of the civil society, who are addressing gender, inequality and discrimination issues, thus contributing to social reform processes. The culture projects contribute to social transformation and development through the creative use of art and stimulating artistic diversity.

Specifically, the current projects support actions focusing on:

  • Innovations and testing of new ideas, e.g. testing innovations and technologies, supporting public-private partnerships etc.;

  • Knowledge and know-how transfer, where possible supported by Swiss expertise, will stimulate Swiss-Mongolian exchanges.

  • Contribute to the cultural diversity and development by providing grants to Mongolian art houses, artists and practitioners, and

  • Promote cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Mongolia through meaningful artistic and cultural expressions and initiatives.

In July 2020 Mongolia established and renewed the Ministry of Culture and appointed a very intellectual Minister Nomin. Since 2005 SDC in Mongolia implements over 130 projects in culture and art. ​​​​

These two projects that have been implemented by SDC in Mongolia. 

1 - Encounters

"Encounters" is a contemporary dance performance by Mongolian professional and wheel-charied dancers. Involving four Mongolian professional dancers and four people in wheelchairs, "Encounters" deals with human encounters by using the means of contemporary dance. "Encounters" is a piece about distance and proximity; a piece that asks how people's paths can cross, how we as humans can approach each other and how we can overcome differences that distance us from others. "Encounters" asks what happens when people with different preconditions and backgrounds converge and connect. Which new possibilities can arise?

Get some insights: video impression of "Encounters"

The piece, choreographed by Fabian Cohn (Swiss, based in Berlin) was staged on October 5, 2019 at HUN Theatre, ASEM Villa, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, within the scope of Swinging Wheelchair Project, initiated by Bidchadna NGO and supported by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

"Encounters" was developed in collaboration with the performers. The different abilities of the performers and the way they cope with these differences were the inherent parts of the developing process. And in this sense the merging process of the people in wheelchairs and professional dancers became as part of the piece itself.

A specific movement language helped to create “one" piece out of the different starting points: Inspired by Body-Mind centering, Ideokinesys and Gaga, choreographer Fabian Cohn developed together with choreographer Dominika Cohn a unique movement language which works with inner pictures as well as with the visualization of elements (like water, air, etc.) and “body systems" (like bones, lymph, muscles, skin, nerves etc.). The form of this expression seeks for “authenticity“ rather than „perfection“; it is generated by inner pictures / imagination and will vary individually according to each dancer.

The project brought substantial confidence and motivation not only for participating disabled artists, but also for the disabled audience. It also motivated others to think differently about the disabled, inspired collaboration.   The theatre with 330 seats was full. We estimate that through comprehensive social media, TV, radio and other promotions and news, we reached around 200.000 people. 

About the choreographer: Fabian Cohn, born in Basel, Switzerland, studied physical theatre and mime at “Die Etage", Berlin (2006-2008). He works as a freelance choreographer and director in the fields of contemporary dance, mime and film. Together with dancer/choreographer Dominika Cohn, he founded “YET Company" in 2010. YET Company stands for fresh and interdisciplinary choreographic creations that aim to reach diverse audiences. The works of YET Company are usually based on experimental approaches, whilst featuring a strong sense of aesthetics and a subtle humour. Several productions of YET company have been publicly funded and toured internationally. In his latest works, Fabian Cohn has focused on the poetics of movement. His recent choreographies aim to open a new perspective of the beauty and fragility of the liveliness.


2 - Bloosoming Nomads - Contortionist Gils changing the world

“I've come across a historical document that says a contortion performance used to be held at the Saran Khukhuu Theater, founded by the famous Mongolian enlightener Danzanravjaa in the 18th century. Considering that it had already become an art form in the 18th century, we see contortionism as a part of Mongolian cultural heritage that has existed and developed in Mongolia through the ages. Now the world is globalized, and contortion is developing in every corner of the world. There have been concerns that the Mongolian origins of this heritage may fade or dim in the future. Therefore, the cultural workers of Bulgan Province decided to preserve, pass on, and spread this heritage with a goal to develop it“ said teacher Ts. Enkhtuya.​

Initially, the Bulgan Cultural Centre started training for over 300 children. Over the time, many children quit the training again, because it was too demanding for them. Contortion is an art that requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and endurance. But the instructors, didn't give up and worked hard, and continued to teach and spread contortion to a small number of children. In the province of …there are no professional teachers or schools that train or educate this sport-art. Contortion is simply a person's innate talent, patience, and persistent training combined with the unique flexibility of a Mongolian. “Therefore, we invited teachers from Ulaanbaatar who had developed contortion for many years to come work with us, and they trained our own dance teacher. As a result, they reached a level where they were able to demonstrate contortion" added the teacher Ts. Enkhtuya.

Although the number of students was small, the children worked hard, overcame every challenge, and trained persistently, and fell in love with the art of contortion. They now have their own repertoire, and participate in various competitions, as for example, in the television show “Mongolia's Got Talent". The Cultural Center and teachers sought ways to further develop and promote the contortionists, make them popular, and have an influence on other children. Get some insights here!​

Here, SDC joined hand with them and supported the Blossoming Nomads project, a documentary about these girls and their mastery of contortion skills, what obstacles they had to overcome, but also, what they've achieved, and finally about their dreams. The Cultural Center distributed the video to all 21 provinces and 333 soums in Mongolia. Various positive changes occurred as a result of implementing the Blossoming Nomads project.

Thank you for the inputs on the project to Tansagmaa Tsog, officer of responsible for Culture at the SDC in Mongolia. 



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