Pavel Prokopchik

From the series Apashka

World Press Photo 2012


"Apa" or "Apashka" in Kazakh language means - granny. That's how people address a shaman woman that is living in Ungurtas village, Kazakhstan. Ungurtas is located very close to Kirgyzian boarder, on the way from Almaty to Bishkek. Originally from Turkistan, Apa was told by the spirits to find a particular mountain. She found it 8 years ago made a temporary living space and started accepting pilgrims. Soon after pilgrims built a whole farm, made steps on the mountain, which is thought to have healing properties.

Apa is a sufi, she calls herself the last dervish of Kazakhstan. People come from other countries to visit her, Russia, Ukraine, White Russia and of course other cities in Kazakhstan. Some of the rituals she performs include slaying of a goat and pouring blood onto practically naked people. Or after killing an animal blood is smeared on to the face, hands and feet of people currently living at the farm.
Life at the farm is very basic. Every day starts with choirs, bringing water from the river, cleaning the stoves and putting new coal in it. Taking care of the goats and other animals. Women usually cook and take care of the dishes.
Once in a while Apa says that she got a command from the sprits and gives out personal or sometimes common assignments, which usually include visiting some holy place in the neighborhood or saying particular mantras.

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