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Interview with Turkmen artist Mojek Charyev

On 1 October - International Day of Older Persons, UNFPA looks at ways to combat ageism and break stereotypes around older people.  

Mojek Charyev, artist-cartoonist, caricaturist and a poet, welcomed UNFPA in his studio in the weeks leading up to International Day of Older Persons. Creator of the legendary cartoons “Bovenjik,” “The Poor and the Greedy,” “The Flying Carpet”, Mojek Charyev, 76, has an amazing sense of humour and zest for life.  We talked about healthy ageing and proud moments in his life, about passion and inspiration, as well as advice for the younger generation.


What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?

My whole life is an adventure and I have many different moments that continue sparkling like different facets of ruby for me.  But the highlight in my entire biography – in my young and old age – is when I correctly chose my profession.

Since my childhood I was an athlete but also a poet. I love mastering and inventing new things. I love philosophy and often composed poems that mimic and tease the poetry of the philosopher Omar Khayyam or the poet Vladimir Vysotskiy.  My thoughts are in constant movement. 

That is why I chose to be a cartoonist, because it encompasses caricatures, music, philosophy and quick-wittedness.

Despite my passion for illustrations and cartoons, I was immensely insecure.  Nevertheless, I tried to apply for the famous All-Union State University of Cinematography in Moscow (currently Russian State University of Cinematography named after S. Gerasimov). 

When the results were posted, I was devastated when I did not see my name among the names of thousands of applicants.  It turned out that I was looking at the wrong list.

My name appeared on a short list of only seven applicants who actually entered the University of Cinematography – department of Animated cartoon that year. 

There we studied everything – architecture, music, illustration, everything.  I studied and worked with the legendary Soviet artists like Yuriy Ivanovich Pimenov, Aleksandr Shukayev, Fedor Savelyevich Hitruk, Ivan Petrovich Ivanov-Vano and many others. 

In 1975, I created the first ever hand-drawn Turkmen cartoon "Bovenjik" based on a Turkmen fairy tale which later won many prizes, including at the international festivals.).

This is the highlight in my entire biography.


What advice would you give to younger people today?

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. You need to build yourself up and train your thoughts, intelligence and quick wit, you constantly need to learn new things. There are so many interesting things in the world.  When I was young, I never liked history. But it turns out that you can learn so much from history, I am fascinated. The biggest gift that God gave us is our life.  Try to love your life.  To love it and feel happy you should do sports!


What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done as an older person?

I can hit the basketball goal from the penalty loop of the opposite hoop of the basketball hall two or three times out of five times. I realize that everything depends on our state of mind, there is nothing we cannot achieve in the right state of mind. After all, I can hardly see now.


What is the bravest thing you’ve done?

My whole life I dreamt about performing something grand, a feat.  We traveled from Moscow to Ashgabat by train and stopped in Saratov. A girl was walking along a pedestrian crossing over the railway and dropped a shoe on the roof of our train-car. The train started moving, but I managed to climb onto the roof of the train and threw the shoe back to her onto the platform.


When were you happiest and why? What makes you happy now?

Entering my dream university was the happiest moment of my life. And NOW - my work and art is what makes me happy and keeps me going.  My work allows me to enter a special state of mind, it helps me to fully turn on my mind. In music, there are also 7 colors of the rainbow - 7 notes, and in the pictures you can also feel the rhythm, the dynamics, the accent, movement, and the soul. I remember in my childhood I saw how rooks flew over our field - birds with a blue tint on their wings walked on the snow, and it was mesmerizing. Snowflakes flew through the air. Poetry was born in my soul. I was lucky that I was born in a village in nature.

Happiness is when we are understood.  When I am understood. When my art is understood.  That’s happiness. 


What do you enjoy most about this stage in your life?

Love. We are the children of love.  This is life’s greatest gift.  We should love more, not hate.  I can talk about this for hours but instead I will say it in verses:


No one lives forever.

When my time comes

I will regret only one thing

That I did not spend all my love.



Никто же вечно не живет.

Когда настанет мой черед

Лишь об одном жалеть я буду

Что не истратил всю любовь.)


That is the essence of everything and our life.  Unfortunately, people are not perfect.  But it is better to live and continue creating in a state of love rather than in a state of hatred or misunderstanding.