Asher Svidensky’s photographs from Mongolia of apprentice eagle hunters are fantastic. (FYI, they hunt with eagles, not for them.) Among Svidensky’s subjects is a 13-year-old girl, Ashol Pan:
At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:
“How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?”
“And honestly… would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia’s first ever female eagle huntress?”
I expected a straightforward “No” or a joking “Maybe”, but after a short pause he replied:
“Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he’s now an officer, so he probably won’t be back with the tradition. It’s been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn’t dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place.”
From the father’s answer I realized that the idea of women’s participation in keeping the tradition is a possible future, but just like many other aspect of Mongolian life, it’s an option which women will need to take on by themselves.