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Madame Assemgul Issetova: Promoting Kazakh Culture

Madame Assemgul Issetova:  Promoting Kazakh Culture

      Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia, is a young democratic country with a centuries old history. Madame Assemgul Issetova arrived in Bangkok in 2022 when she and her children accompanied HE Ambassador Arman Issetov for his next posting. Elite+ sat down with Madame Assemgul to learn about her views on the role of women in Kazakhstan and her continuous effort to promote Kazakh culture.

      Madame Assemgul was born in Astana, previously known as Tselinograd. From a young age, she studied in a music school where she was well-trained in piano and “Dombra”, the national instrument of Kazakhstan. At university, she studied finance and economics after which she joined the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

      Madame Assemgul revealed that like many Kazakhs, she grew up with the support from a big family. Her parents encouraged her to be creative and explore her artistic passions. She learned sewing from her grandmother and grew up in an environment that appreciated her country’s culture, which similar to Thailand empasises kindness, understanding, respect for seniors and never giving up.

 

 

      Together with her husband, Ambassador Arman, on his posting to New York in 2004, Madame Assemgul revealed some of her fond memories of the city. “It was a very rewarding experience for me as a diplomat’s wife. It was my first time representing my country, which I was proud to do. I also gained a lot of knowledge from senior diplomats’ wives. Together, we participated in a variety of activities, talked about our nation and its customs, and proudly wore our national attire.

      At the same time, I had my own new responsibilities as a wife and mother. while I also learnt to be more independent. In a foreign country, I came to acknowledge the importance of accepting our Kazakh culture even more.”

      Following a decade of home-based work in Kazakhstan, Madame Assemgul found herself back in New York between 2018-2022 for their second overseas posting.

      Turning to her cultural passions, Madame Assemgul enthusiastically said, “I enjoy everything that requires creativity such as handicrafts, making ornaments and sewing. Since ancient times, Kazakh women are taught from a young age to be the best they can while remaining modest. From a young age, girls, like boys, are trained in horse riding and archery. This is why our nomadic women are versatile, have a strong mentality and are great at supporting their families.”

      She candidly went on to share a few common proverbs in Kazakhstan. “A girl is a guest in her own home;” “A mother uses one hand to rock a cradle while the other shakes the world.”

 

 

       Madame Assemgul emphasized the importance women being respected in Kazakh communities. “During our time in the US, we took our children to visit famous colleges, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT. As modern Kazakh women are educated, we hope our teenage daughters, Ayanat and Aizhan, will someday be modern Kazakh women with strong traditional values.”

      Since her first posting to New York, Madame Assemgul has been involved in charity work. “We participated in the United Nations Bazaar with proceeds going to help communities in Syria and Yemen, especially children who suffered from the disruptions caused by war. I was a member of the United Nations Delegation Women’s Club. As Ambassador Arman was the Deputy Permanent Representative of our country to the United Nations, I was involved with a smaller group of the deputies’ spouses running workshops.

      "This year in Thailand, I have joined the Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar Committee. Since this is my first posting in Asia as an ambassador’s spouse, I hope to get more involved with charity work. Since our arrival, we have had the opportunity to visit some local charity projects in Udon Thani, Hua Hin and Phuket through the arrangements of Thai government ministries. Together with other spouses from SHOM (Spouses of Heads of Missions), I visited the Mercy Center in Bangkok and was impressed with the work of Sister Louise. Privately, I have taken my children to distribute used clothes to local communities.”

       To study Thai culture, Madame Assemgul joined some SHOM ladies to work as a National Museum volunteer. “I have been fascinated by the beautiful museum exhibits and amazing craftsmanship in Thailand. I see that Thailand and Kazakhstan are very similar. Kazakhstan is referred to as the “Land of Free People” while Thailand means “Land of Freedom”. I enjoy exploring the local culture by visiting museums, ancient cities, historical places and local markets.

      "Last year, on the birthday anniversary of HM Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother on August 12, we visited the Grand Palace to sign the congratulatory book. I appreciated the grandeur of the palace and the Thai people's respect for the Royal family. It was an eye-opening experience for me, coming from a democratic country without a monarchy.” 

       One of Madame Assemgul’s prominent roles as an ambassador’s spouse is to promote Kazakh culture and national identity. Madame Assemgul proudly recalled Kazakhstan Language Day on the fifth of September, saying “Together with my eldest son, Bekzat, we worked on his speech to encourage young, overseas Kazakhstan children to learn the Kazakh language. In addition, each week, the spouses of our embassy's diplomats teach our children about Kazakhstan's history. As expatriate children, it is often difficult for them to learn our own language and history when we are based overseas.

 

 

      Madame Assemgul is actively involved in supporting and promoting cultural exchange between Kazakhstan and Thailand. One good example is her recent interview with Elite+ on an article about Kazakhstan cuisine. As there is no Kazakh restaurant in Bangkok, she prepared ‘Beshbarmak’, the national dish of Kazakhstan and other dishes to share her country’s food culture. Her participation with the Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar is another opportunity to promote Kazakh products and culture. She has also supported other cultural activities such as the Thai Silk Exhibition last December to showcase Kazakh designers in Bangkok. Another event was the Kazakh students’ participation in the International Olympics of World’s Scholar Cup as a cultural fair in CentralWorld.

      As our interview drew to a close, Madame Assemgul shared, “There is a historical heroine named Tomiris, often referred to as the Queen of Nomads as she bravely participated in a war to defeat the Persian King, Cyrus the Great. I admire her love for freedom and independence. Just like this queen, I believe that women should know, cherish and develop their cultural values.”

      Lastly, she added, “Kazakhstan is a young country. We are blessed with beautiful land and hospitable people. As I look forward to continuing to explore Thailand, I also wish to welcome Elite+ readers to experience the beauty of Kazakhstan.”

 

In the business community, she serves on the Board of Directors with the Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association. Kathy is on the Thailand Tatler Magazine Expat Society The 200 List. She is the Honorary Columnist and contributing writer to a few leading English magazines. She and her husband, RADM Dr Boonyarit Pokrud have one son who is currently based in Boston, USA.

Kathleen Pokrud

In the business community, she serves on the Board of Directors with the Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association. Kathy is on the Thailand Tatler Magazine Expat Society The 200 List. She is the Honorary Columnist and contributing writer to a few leading English magazines. She and her husband, RADM Dr Boonyarit Pokrud have one son who is currently based in Boston, USA.