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“Banka’s Home” in Dashbalbar, Dornod, Mongolia by Conny Zhao

The piece you are looking at titled “Banka’s Home” was taken by UT Alumna Conny Zhao during her trip to the Dornod Province of Mongolia in 2019. Zhao participated in the Confucius Institute Photo Contest as a part of an I-House International Student event. Zhao is a multimedia storyteller, musician, and researcher who likes to exhibit her work through a wide range of mediums to gain a holistic understanding of a people’s history and cultural context. This photo is from her series A Place to Land, created between 2018 and 2019, and focuses on the relationships between indigenous peoples of Palestine and Mongolia and their historic and cultural ties to land. According to the artist, “I captured this photo of my friend Banka’s hometown on the northeastern Mongolian steppe. Multiple generations of Banka’s family have built a life in the Buryat district of Dashbalbar, near the Russian border. As a small ethnic minority group with little political power, Buryat people have struggled to find methods to preserve their unique language and cultural artifacts. The elderly women of Dashbalbar have founded an Elder Center, with the goal of passing down centuries’ old knowledge of language, song, and other customs. The elders teach the younger generations traditional songs, archery, and how to make foods such as cheeses or Buryat bread while the younger generations take care of the elders in return. Banka’s Home encapsulates generations of both trauma and tradition the Buryats of Dashbalbar have sustained.”