Popular throughout much of Central Asia, buzkashi is a form of horse polo in which horseback players wrestle a goat carcass across a playing field. Believed to have its origins as a defense tactic against Genghis Khan’s livestock-snatching Mongols, the sport is played with few rules and no teams – every man fights for himself.
Buzkashi is practiced more widely in Tajikistan, compared to the other ex-Soviet republics, where the sport is occasionally controlled. For Afghan horse traders upholding their own buzkashi tradition, Tajikistan is also one of the chief sources for the prized — and often extremely expensive — buzkashi steeds.
All of the photos in this gallery were shot in Tajikistan, as part of a project on buzkashi culture throughout the ’stans. A selection of photos from this series won a gold award in the 2011 Prix de la Photographie (PX3) and 2nd place in the 2011 International Photography Awards.
Growing up in China, India and Indonesia, Theodore Kaye found a natural passion in photographing the world. While majoring in Film at Yale, he studied Uzbek and Farsi and then went to work as a newspaper editor and mountain guide in Central Asia before settling on a photo career.
As a former staff photographer at Rhythms Monthly, a Chinese-language geographic magazine, he has covered stories in China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ireland and Great Britain. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Associated Press, McSweeney’s, CNN, Eurasianet and the National Film Board of Canada. Past NGO clients have included the Aga Khan Foundation, the Tzuchi Foundation, the Eurasia Foundatio,n VSO, and GIZ.
Theodore Kaye is currently pursuing personal projects in the Central Asian ’stans, Greater China and South Asia. He is available for editorial, portrait and commercial assignments. He can speak English, Chinese, Tajik and Russian.
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