“Look at this painting! Does a camel cry?” someone said with confusion while I was standing at an art exhibition. These words brought me back to reality when I was lost in my mind. I immediately looked at my own painting of a weeping camel and remembered the moment when I painted the camel.
A year ago, I went to my relatives’ home in the Gobi Desert. The first thing that caught my eyes was a newborn baby camel outside their ger (a traditional Mongolian round yurt). I wondered why the baby camel looked so sad and weak. My relatives who are nomads told me that she was rejected by her mother and was left alone. The baby camel was endearing, but vulnerable. When I tried to make her stand up, she couldn’t. The nomads and I prepared for “Hoosloh”, a ritual that aims to create harmony between the baby and the mother camel. The ritual has a singer singing along to the sound of a musical instrument called “Morin Khuur (a horse violin),” which is intended to make the mother camel weep out of compassion and take her baby back. To melt the mother’s heart, the song has to be amazing.
The nomads told me to sing along but I was afraid that my voice wouldn’t be good enough and that made me scared for the baby camel’s life. The moment came and the melody of Morin Khuur started. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and started to sing. A few minutes passed and when I opened my eyes, the fierce eyes of the camel became gentle. Eventually, the mother started to weep and nursed her baby. My voice was shaking as tears fell down my cheeks. The feeling I had was unexplainable.
It was incredible that the power of music can touch an animal’s heart. Every tradition has its own meaning and importance. I experienced our amazing culture with my soul and heart. In order to make people experience the feeling I got from the “Hoosloh” ritual, I painted the weeping camel and exhibited the paintings in the art exhibition that my school was hosting.
The Bactrian camels (camels that have two humps) are becoming extinct. They give birth only once in two years and sometimes reject their babies. The essence of Hoosloh ritual is a pure relationship between a human and an animal. The intention of my paintings was to help others become aware of this amazing ritual that was forgotten and to shed light on the situation at hand.
In the same way that music transcends language and speaks to our souls, I am fascinated by how visual arts convey meaning regardless of the linguistic and cultural barriers.
… I walked toward the person who was confused by my painting of the weeping camel and I said, “Yes. A camel does cry.”