Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ashol-Pan, The 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress

Jessica G. sent me a cool story from BBC News: For possibly the first time in 2,000 years, a 13-year old girl named Ashol-Pan has been apprenticed in Mongolia to hunt with Golden Eagles:


WHOAH.


Ashol-Pan is part of the Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia, the only people today to hunt using Golden Eagles. BBC photographer Asher Svidensky spent time with 6 of their apprentice falconers, and described Ashol-Pan as being "more comfortable" and "more powerful" with the eagles than her male counterparts.

Awww yeah. Care to join me in a little standing-and-cheering, my friends?

[standing] WOOTWOOOOT!!

Ahem.


Head over to the original BBC article to read more, and to see more amazing photos like this:


Now, who else is inspired to write a whole YA series based on Ashol-Pan? And/or cosplay as her? Just me?

27 comments:

  1. Actually, in July I'm planning a YA romance (yeah, it's going to have a love triangle, but it'll be a bisexual love triangle) about a warrior princess in a non-faux-Europe setting. I may have to use this girl as inspiration.

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  2. So. Cool. She must have arms of steel, those things are HUGE. The article says wingspan of over 230cm; imagine having that hurtling towards you, carcass in talons. Nice work, lady.

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  3. While I think this story is great, I don't think "cosplay" would be an actual compliment. Especially not in these day of cultural appropriation.

    She's not wearing a costume, she's not a character. She's a real person, these could be her work clothes, or traditional attire.

    Admire her? Yes. Want to be her? Sure. Write how awesome she is? Go for it! Cosplay her? not anymore than I would want to be cosplayed in my work clothes (I've seen it done, and only the people who don't do the job find it cool or funny).

    Just my opinion.

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    1. Absolutely. This girl is awesome, but I think cosplaying her would be inappropriate.

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    2. Hmm, I think I see your point, although I'm coming from a place where cosplay is always considered a compliment. (I had a group of readers dress up as me - just... me) on the book tour, and it made my whole week.) I know it's a touchy line when you get into other cultures, though, and obviously the tawdry & insulting Halloween stuff ala the Naughty Indian has made a lot of people (understandably) assume a costume is always a mockery.

      In fact, I wonder if that's where convention cosplay vs Halloween costumes diverge: there seems to be more respect with cosplay, and less dressing-as-someone-as-a-joke. You still see it every now & then, but much less so than Halloween.

      This could make for an interesting conversation: is there a place for respectful cosplay in situations like these, where, say, a little girl wanted to dress like Ashol-Pan, the same way other girls want to dress like Disney princesses? Or will society always see culturally-associated clothing as wrong no matter what the context?

      I like that you guys make me think about this stuff. So, thanks. :)

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    3. Hmm...you've definitely made me see both sides. I loathe the dressing-as-a-Native-American bit, so my gut reaction was 'no', but I have no problem with a child dressing as Pocahontas (provided they strive for authenticity) or Sacagawea when say giving a report at school, just as they might dress as Betsy Ross or Clara Barton. I think I see dressing as a specific person because you admire them as okay. Dressing in a culture's attire as a generic Native American or Mexican or whatever is NOT okay, because you are treating them as less than individuals. In that case, it's a costume. Does that make sense?

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    4. Total sense! And excellent point re: the "generic" thing.

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    5. David from BrazilApril 22, 2014 at 8:40 PM

      I think it's easier to cosplay someone who is practically a "fictional character in real life", like the Bloggess, or Jen :) In this girl's case you'd be just imitating her traditional clothes, which is less ok, I guess.

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    6. LOVE this conversation! My initial reaction was also, "UM, no! How rude...", but when you think about doing it respectfully with lots of research to bring more awareness to her culture (i.e., book report/cultural fair), I can totally see it's validity. Though when I think of Cosplay, it doesn't fall into that sort of category for me, but it could be a great learning opportunity for others.

      Really though, I would feel most comfortable being actually INVITED by someone of another culture to try out their native/historic dress, which would be both fun, and a way to learn the true meaning behind it all.

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    7. The essence of cosplay is showing appreciation for something or someone. Therefore I think it can be respectful of real people and cultures. A larger factor is how you present yourself. If you are acting in a way that perpetuates negative stereotypes, then yes it's rude. However if you act in a way that positively represents that person or culture, then I don't see the harm. You may even inspire others to learn more. So I agree that when done right, it can be a great compliment.

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  4. Jen, the moment I saw these pictures I thought, "There is a story just BEGGING to be written about this young woman!" Who will be the first, I wonder? :-)

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  5. I saw the above comments, and I can see everyone's viewpoints. Personally, I think there's nothing wrong with cosplaying anyone you want! I don't think culture should come into it at all. If you cosplay as someone Mongolian, that shouldn't be any weirder/more disrespectful than cosplaying someone from your own culture or any other culture. Jen, I think, like you, that cosplaying is a form of compliment!

    That said, wouldn't it be awesome if there was a convention where you could cosplay as real people? Real-life heroes, actors, musicians, family members, whoever! Unless you dressed as someone famous, probably no one else would "get" your costume, but then you could strike up conversations and tell why you're dressed up as your awesome pioneer great-great grandma or your postman or Ashol-Pan. :D

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    1. This reminds me of a project I did back in HS for one of my history classes. You had to pick an historical figure and do a report. Then we had a night that we dressed up and parents/families/faculty/staff came and we wandered around and talked about who we were dressed as and why they were important. It was called "A Night in History." It was pretty neat, especially if you did pick someone more obscure, like I did. I was Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most people had no idea who I was (I introduced myself as Bill W.) until I told them why I was "famous" and then they'd listen politely and move on when I was done with my spiel...but my librarian knew who I was as soon as I said the name and she thanked me afterward; she thought it was pretty cool that I'd picked someone who wasn't as famous as some of the other people students had chosen.

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    2. This website seemed pertinent here.

      http://takebackhalloween.org/

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  6. I don't think it would be disrespectful to dress as her, but maybe it would "sit" better if you took it out of the realm of "cosplaying" (which brings to mind superheroes, princesses, and anime characters) and shifted it towards "costuming", which is a lot more concerned with being historically/ethnically/culturally accurate.

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  7. Jen, do you follow "A Mighty Girl" on Facebook? They share info about all kinds of inspiring women and they frequently share book recommendations that feature empowering female characters. They have a great website, too. I learned about Ashol-Pan through them.

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  8. Cosplaying brings to mind fictional (or revered and deceased) characters, whereas Ashol-Pan is a breathing, living, thinking girl. It would be more appropriate to dress up as her for educational purposes at a cultural event.

    As someone of Mexican descent, it has never sat well with me to dress up as another "culture," or even as an individual of another culture. There is sooo much baggage that comes with it. Individuals of European ancestry do not know what it feels like to be a member of a racial minority group, and to feel inferior because of it.

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    1. As an individual of European ancestry (white, blonde, and blue-eyed), I've grown up surrounded by the Mexican culture and still am constantly surrounded by it. I watched yearly Cinco de Mayo programs in school and loved the costumes and wanted to wear one. Was it wrong to want to wear a pretty dress?

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    2. "Was it wrong to want to wear a pretty dress?"

      Not wrong, but it also matters as to whether the pretty dress has specific meaning to the culture to which you do not belong. I find the full apprentice geisha regalia absolutely beautiful, but the various garments and accessories have specific meanings and convey status in a whole hierarchy. Given that I'm not part of that culture, it's a compliment for me to admire, but not appropriate or respectful for me to wear.

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    3. Well, it becomes problematic when it's not simply an issue of a dress being pretty or desirable. It holds a lot of cultural meaning and profundity. I think the geisha regalia is a great example. I have always admired how lovely traditional Japanese garments are, but it would be inappropriate and potentially offensive for me to wear them since I am not Japanese.

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  9. What a beautiful and amazing young lady! The look of joy on her face tells you everything you need to know - Ashol-Pan enjoys what she's learning as a falconer and she loves every minute of it! And the fact that she isn't intimidated by the eagle is impressive, as well. I've always been intrigued by the Mongolian culture - their ability to retain centuries-old culture and way of life in the modern age is very interesting to me (and they do it in an inhospitable environment, to boot!).

    Jen, thanks for sharing Ashol-Pan's wonderful story with us. Hopefully, we'll hear more about her as a falconer and the impact she has on the Mongolian culture.

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  10. Reminds me of an apt quote by Mercedes Lackey, regarding how you can tell what a falconer flies:

    "The man who flies a falcon has puncture wounds all over his fist from nervous talons. The man who flies a goshawk has an arm that is white to the elbow, because he never dares go without his gauntlet. And the man who flies a hawk eagle is the one with the eye patch."

    This girl is far braver than I could ever be. And that is awesome.

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  11. Not to take anything away from this beautiful, brave young woman, but the BBC article is being a bit sloppy with their research. This article from Reuters, dated March 2012, features "apparently the only female golden eagle hunter in Kazakhstan", Makpal Abdrazakova. Women in this sport are obviously rare, but I'm guessing that neither one of these women is the only woman in 2000 years to hunt with golden eagles.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2012/03/06/kazakhstans-lone-female-eagle-hunter/

    http://nutz.soup.io/post/130268339/Her-name-is-Makpal-Abdrazakova-and-she

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  12. No! I can't read girl power posts like this during finals. I am now crying and exhausted and I feel like maybe the world is getting better. I've already pinned her story...

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/RonjasVintageRoses?ref=si_shop

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  13. saw that a while back while looking at a Isle of Mann TT related story on the Beeb site. Egad ,that bird is nearly as big as she is.

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  14. Yes! She needs her own series. The look on her face in the pictures, conveys her joy.

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  15. I think this is the coolest story I've heard in years. And here I am reading a year after you wrote about it. Freaking awesome. And yes to the YA books, the cosplay... all of it.

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