Astana’s first knitting festival incorporates creativity and social justice

ASTANA – Astana’s first knitting festival Brain Yoga of the 21st Century gathered professional and amateur knitters in the nation’s capital Aug. 16. Astana residents weathered rainy conditions to attend the event dedicated to their favourite pastime, reports

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“With the support of the Astana Akimat (city administration), we had an opportunity to hold a knitting festival where everyone, regardless of age, health or profession could learn to knit or improve their existing skills,” said festival Founder and social entrepreneur Rakhima Mukusheva.

Festival goers marvelled at the exhibition of crafts and had the opportunity to try their hand at knitting, yarn spinning and wool felting themselves in master classes free of charge. Those looking for more physically demanding activities took part in yoga and samba classes. A picnic format, hammock area and a concert encouraged attendees to stay long after they sampled the exhibitions, contests and classes.

Knitters, including staff of the knitting studio Bergen and those with physical challenges, had the opportunity to sell their handiwork at the festival. Cardigans, sweaters and bags were available for sale.

Mukusheva runs Astana’s knitting school and studio Bergen. There, she employs 12 people, seven of whom constitute socially vulnerable persons, as part of her efforts to help others master new skills, socialise themselves and be exposed to social entrepreneurship.

“I teach people how to knit. It is a kind of therapy, since it helps to concentrate and cope with problems and ailments. For some, knitting is their only way to earn money,” said Mukusheva, who found solace and a steady income in her knitting business after facing job loss.

Another social-minded aspect of the festival included the opportunity for attendees to knit clothing for prematurely-born babies, facilitated by Club 28 Petel (28 Loops) volunteers.

“Doctors told me that premature babies have a thermoregulation disorder and there is a need to take care by retaining their heat from the first seconds. Pure wool socks give warmth and, at the same, constantly massage – a baby feels discomfort because of the scratchy wool and he or she moves, not forgetting to breathe,” said photographer and journalist Karlygash Nurzhanova who initiated the social project Club 28 Petel in 2012.

Those who missed out on the festival still have the opportunity to get involved in knitting by taking beginner classes at Mukusheva’s school, which cost 20,000 tenge (US$55.41) per month and are free for individuals belonging to socially vulnerable groups.

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