Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
It only seems that Baku is a large city. After all, if you change your unit of measurement from kilometers to family members, friends and colleagues, it turns out that it is not so big, because almost everyone knows each other here. Gulshan Kengerlinskaya is one of those well-known personalities in Baku. Almost thirty years of teaching at various institutions, including the Baku Choreographic School (now the Baku Academy of Choreography), Academy of Arts, University of Culture and Arts, the Khazar University, has become a guarantee of popularity among her many students, many of whom have become professionals and the pride of the national art and beyond. Gulshan Kengerlinskaya currently works at the A. Bakikhanov Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan (ANAS). Art critic, historian, researcher, teacher... She is the compiler and editor of a collection of articles entitled The Son of Two Nations Magsud Sheykhzade dedicated to the centenary of the Azerbaijani and Uzbek poet, writer, playwright, publicist, translator and teacher. Gulshan-khanym is the granddaughter of the famous poet. She participated in multiple international and regional creative forums. A restless and indifferent person, she loves her profession and job, which she faithfully serves like all her ancestors.
"A teacher is the leader of children"
In 1993, for the first time as a teacher, she entered the auditorium of the Baku Choreographic School. Although she knew the curriculum well and was ready to teach the history of fine arts to the senior grade students of the school, she was surprised to find out that the study of national fine arts was not included in the program. It literally shocked her. Raised among the best examples of Azerbaijani culture and art, she did not understand how it was possible. How can children be deprived of knowing the history of fine arts in their own country? After revising the curriculum and amending it with a separate section on the types of Azerbaijani art, she applied to the Ministry of Education to officially approve it. Music, painting, architecture, sculpture, national dance are the components of the subject of conversation between the teacher and her students.
She believes that the real patriots who love the culture and art of their country will never leave the country. She constantly rejects offers from abroad to be part of profitable projects. From a family of parents repressed and deported to settle in the Kazakh steppes and Tashkent, Gulshan-khanym believes that love for the Motherland begins in the family.
"To love the Motherland means to love your parents, your ancestry, your family. Which means to love your own people. Why do young people leave Azerbaijan? Because they do not know their homeland. Everything within the family, school, universities must serve the purpose of letting our children understand the land they live on, the spiritual and cultural heritage they own."
“But the history of Azerbaijan is taught everywhere in the country. Modern children are well-versed in gadgets...”
"That’s right. But information from the Internet is unlikely to bring a child's heart closer to the homeland. One must travel around the country on his own."
"What do you mean?"
"It is important that the children listen to national music, read national literature and speak their own language from the early childhood. It is also important to travel around the country to know it better. Not literally, of course. Children will never understand what Gobustan and rock art mean unless they visit Gobustan and see its wonders themselves, touch the rocks with their hands and feel themselves a part of the ancient history of their own people. It means involvement, inclusion as a continuation of the family and national traditions. When I first took my senior-grade students, future ballet dancers, on an excursion to Gobustan, I saw the emotional inspiration that filled their hearts and reflected on their actions. They began climbing the rocks and dancing on top of them realizing their past, realising that their part of this ancient land, these rocks, the people, the rhythms of energy that this land literally radiates. They returned to Baku absolutely happy. It is not so difficult to take the children to Ateshgah, to Yanardag, to the historical complex Gala... After all, these are all places for a wonderful family weekend trip. You don't have to go far. From my practical experience, I know that children return from these trips completely transformed. And when the desire to travel around the counry is instilled and encouraged by parents from early childhood, then the children receive such an energy charge that remains with them forever. The concepts of ancestry and people turn to be more specific to them, not abstract."
"I guess you mean the history of national art should have practical and visual confirmation, don’t you?"
"Possibly tactile too. Otherwise, how can a child know what a carpet is unless he touches it and learns to decipher the messages of ancestors hidden in the ornaments? How can one tell them about the carpet to make them feel the Motherland and its ancient culture? That’s the only way. Therefore, excursions to the Carpet History Museum are also highly recommended for the moral, artistic and patriotic education of the children of Azerbaijan. Today they are children, but tomorrow they will become part of this people."
“But again, today children have access to the Internet and other extensive opportunities to ake part in excursions virtually...”
"You’re right again. They can get visual information in this way. But the monitor screen cannot convey those exciting details of sensations that can be obtained in real time."
“We often can hear that modern children are more informed than their teachers...”
"Well, neither Wikipedia, nor any other web resource can guarantee an accurate, not approximate or biased information, especially to students. Secondly, the concept of teaching is going through a rapid transformation nowadays. The interaction between the teacher and his student misses one very important function of education. In ancient Greek tradition a teacher literally meant a mentor leading teenagers, leader of children, a pedagogue. The functions of modern teachers are reduced to a qualified presentation of material in the classroom. Educational functions are a thing of the past. Alas, the Internet becomes increasingly dominant in what we call educational functions..."
"What do you think of the online teaching system, which is getting increasingly popular as an education toll during the pandemic?"
"At present, I don’t approve it. Online teaching system cannot justify itself in practice for now. There are disciplines that are simply impossible to teach online. For example, classical dance. Or art. Including pictorial art. Such a system of transferring knowledge and practical skills does not justify itself in the same way as the educational Bologna system in creative universities. All teachers and heads of creative universities can confirm what I am saying. We must look for our own, correct system of teaching and education..."
"It seems that the time of deep knowledge and good education is becoming a thing of the past. Why?"
"Because testing of knowledge based on the curriculum introduced by the Bologna Convention in the education system needs substantial improvement. What do you expect of a 3rd-grade pupil instructed to make a presentation about Raphael and his works? It is clear that his parents will do this for him. This mission will be difficult to the child of that age unlike making a presentation about the national symbols of his state, for example."
"It seems you feel a personal responsibility for everything that transcribes in our educational system."
"Exactly. Therefore, I always tell my students that deep knowledge is not just their strength, but also the strength of the state, its tomorrow and today. I believe that if we cultivate and instill love for our music, architecture, history, culture and traditions more than we talk about these concepts, showing our knowledge in practice, letting students touch the heritage of their people, we will raise a generation of strong patriots. Dramatic events on the front-line with Armenia showed how much we have changed over these almost 30 years. And our children have changed."
"Do you mean the recent manifestations of patriotism?"
"Those too. Our people becomes more interested in our history, especially the younger generation of my compatriots. Our people loves peace and good neighbourly relations. We do not occupy other peoples' territories. We just want to live, create and love on our land. Our president in Davos made an absolutely concrete statement: "Karabakh is Azerbaijan and... exclamation mark!" This is a historical fact that gradually spreads informationally among the world community. Yes, we lost the first stage of information war. But over almost 30 years we have become stronger, we are learning from our mistakes. Our children are siding us today as well. And together we are powerful. Children understand this. And if we pass on our love for the land of our ancestors expressed in music, poetry, literature, philosophy, architecture, then when we leave, they will know how to preserve and defend these values from the enemy. Our children will know that the owners of our lands are not the ones who come to take it away, but they themselves. Like their grandfathers, great-grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers. The history of this conflict has long roots."
"What is the role of the national art in the process of information confrontation?"
"It is not active enough yet. If art is an integral part of our life, then the media is a mouthpiece of the ongoing processes. Including in the art. Here and now. What is done in cinema, theaters, literature in this regard? What's going on in the visual arts? I don’t mean the pandemic period. I mean the general position and the position of representatives of the art in relation to the problem as a whole."
"And television. The whole media sector including TV. We live in times when people read less and watch more. Practically all local TV channels (except CBC) imitate their foreign counterparts, imposing stereotypes of other peoples’ mentality, ideals and views. I think we will soon need to reintroduce censorship. Because modern TV channels educate and shape not only tastes, but also worldviews. How? Events depicted on the screen do not always contribute to the development of a harmonious personality. Perhaps because the developers are not professionals, and understand the responsibility for what they release into the world differently. This became especially noticeable during the lockdown, when we had more time to watch and com[pare television programs..."
"By the way, what did you do during the lockdown to spend your free time?"
"The Institute of History did not suspend scientific activities during that time. We have been working on scientific articles, collecting materials for future scientific research, holding online conferences. I spend lots of time on writing posts, letters, signing and sending petitions; checking information in the posts on the problems of Karabakh and the hostilities of the Armenian army. We try to double-check all information that we create on our own or receive from abroad to avoid false data transmission to the world community..."