In this presentation, I would like to elaborate on certain cultural practices observed in Mugat's (Central Asian Gypsies) daily lives supported with images taken during the 7 years of research in Central Asia.

A Mugat home unifies all the entangled symbolic and practical elements of their culture. As a singular yet multifaceted entity, it hosts several ancient customs unfolding simultaneously under one roof. A staple element of the Mugat house is its wall decorations. Regardless of the typology of the housing they live in, be it a seasonal tent or a house in their settlements, these are quite decorative dwellings with some of the rooms painted in a very colorful fashion; demonstrating vibrant yet purified and abstracted expressions. Mostly painted on the inside walls of their homes, we see portraits, calming sceneries, painted images of India as well as symbols from nature in an attempt to capture the beauty of nature and bring it indoors. We also see patchworks of colorful fabrics on windows. In common, all decorated surfaces embody a visual symbolism coded on them. However, beyond the symbolism, one can also observe an efficient utilization of scarce resources. In most cases, their interior spaces double in function as living room and bedroom depending on the time of the day. Moreover, all living areas are common space, and therefore every square inch of the house is efficiently utilized. Most objects such as beds are folded and/or stacked for maximizing the usage of interior spaces. The resulting look of a Mugat home is a curious bricolage of objects waiting to perform their functions when needed.

A good example for the entanglement of symbolism and daily practices can be seen in Quail Fights, an ancient Indian custom, followed mostly by Mugat populations. While paintings of birds decorate most of the wall representations, symbolising spiritual freedom and disentanglement from earthly concerns, actual quails in cages populate the house on the other hand. Usually cages are suspended from the ceilings of interiors or hang on to the exterior facades of the houses. It's a picture where people and animals co-exist in the same living habitat. Quail fights also generate a culture of crafts and skills around it, such as training the birds, cage making from reeds and hand crafting whistles to hunt quails.

A nomadic and creative culture in essence, Mugats do not measure wealth with material accumulation. They value social relationships, generosity and honor the code of sharing. These values are omnipresent in the visual language of decoration and colors through which we witness the common spirit of the way of their being – the cultural glue that binds Mugats together and give them a sense of identity. These traditional expressions have been the main way of sustaining their values and customs for centuries; therefore securing their cultural survival and adaptation to this day.