Ermina Takenova

Seven Mothers

An ongoing series exploring the lives, legacy and strength of Kazakh women.

Jeti Ana (Seven Mothers)

Kazakh people have a tradition called Jeti Ata (Seven Fathers, Seven Ancestors), which obliges every nomad to know the names of their ancestors following the male lineage up to the seventh generation. Couples were forbidden to marry if they had any common ancestors within the seven generations, as they would be considered to be closely related, therefore making their marriage incestuous.

Kazakh genealogical tree is called shejire. In 1960, my great-grandfather Saqtagan and his relative Laten began constructing our family tree. Laten finished working on it in 2001. Thanks to their efforts, I know the names of my ancestors up to 14 generations back. I am from the tribe Qarakesek, Alimuly (Alshyn) of the Little Horde.

Unfortunately, traditionally the names of women are not added in the family tree, and I do not know the names of any of my ancestresses before my great-grandmothers. This drawing is my imaginary family tree of the female lineage. This series is my way to reconnect to my ancestresses whose names I don’t know.