I watched in wonder, at the skill and determination of Mongolian children as young as 5, often riding bareback, one hand gripping their reins and the other a home fashioned rope whip, little legs gripping to the sides of their rugged horses. Across open country with a mountain backdrop, through wild rain, tall grass and dusty trails and all the time at full speed, they race to the finish line up the 30 kms away. These races, held annually all over the country throughout July are an integral part of Mongolian culture and celebrated as part of the Naadam Festival.
Mongolian nomads have long been considered to be some of the best horsemen in the world, and so it is no surprise that this skill begins early in a young Mongol’s life. Horsemanship is tested at the annual Naadam Festivals, with children skilfully competing in these cross country races.
Many Mongols live a nomadic life, living from the land and tending to livestock. The number of Mongolian horses outnumbers people and they are integral in daily and national life. It is traditionally said “A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without the wings.”
In 2012, I engaged a local translator and a driver and departed the capital Ulaanbaatar to travel overland and absorb Mongolian culture, live with a nomadic family at the base of the Khangai Mountains in Central Mongolia and document the Naadam horse races across the country.
This set of 8 images explores the child riders, their absolute skill and determination and their Mongolian breed horses competing in regional races and culminating in the Premier National Naadam races at Khui Doloon Khudag on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar.
An established Australian photographer working predominantly in the industrial, mining and energy genres, Christian is regularly commissioned for assignments throughout regional and remote Australia. Larger projects have taken him across five continents over the past 25 years. He thrives on detail and bringing something new to each assignment.
The vast majority of his commissions are undertaken in rural and remote areas which undoubtedly have their challenges, however the privilege of access and the opportunity to collaborate on projects to produce strong visual imagery is a driving force for Christian and one to which that he brings a great deal of passion. This in turn has nurtured an innate affinity for the natural environment and indigenous peoples and cultures.
“It is a rare and real pleasure to be given the opportunity to create art from circumstances and in places where art does not often rank as a priority.” – Christian Sprogoe
Awards, Exhibitions and Publications
· ‘Coming Together on Country – Conserving Murujuga’ – book (photographer) 2022
· ‘Rock, Salt, Sea – Rottnest Island, a view from above’ – solo exhibition 2019
· Melbourne Design Awards – Gold Award, Corporate Branding & Identity 2019
· ‘Walking the Land Together – Pilbara Conversations’ – book (photographer) 2018
· AIPP WA Commercial Photographer of the Year – Finalist 2016
· AddOn exhibitions (HeadOn Photo Festival) (contributing photographer) 2015, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022
· Winner, National Award of Excellence in Engineering Photography 2015
· Finalist, National Award of Excellence in Engineering Photography 2013
· ‘Channar – A Landmark Venture in Iron Ore’ – book (photographer) 2012
· ‘Western Australia, a Land of Rising Stars’ – book (contributing photographer) 2006
· The Fuji ACMP, Australian Photographers Collections 6, 8 & 9 (contributing photographer)
· Yellowglen National Young Photographer of the year 1998
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