I am pleased to feature the work of Alessandra Meniconzi, one of my favorite travel photographers, on the Berkutchi of Central Asia. She tells us that in Kazak language, Berkutchi, means “hunters with the falcon”. Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry. With extreme patience and dedication the Kazakh have domesticated golden eagles, and their techniques were originally adopted by nomadic populations in Central Asia’s plateaus, and eventually spread to the rest of the world.
For those interested in linguistics, the Kazakh word for golden eagle is "bürkit", and the word for "hunter with eagles" is bürtkitshi.
There are only about 40 officially recognized eagle-hunters in Kazakhstan today, but a village named Nura is its epicenter because it has 14 of them. Kazakh interest in eagle-hunting has been growing since the republic became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Hunting with eagles was discouraged in Soviet days, because it was considered an elite sport.
Alessandra Meniconzi is a documentary photographer whose work "centres on the ancient heritage, customs, spirituality and daily life of indigenous people". She prefers remote and rugged places, mountainous terrain and desert, and seeks people who manage to survive in such places, to discover and record their ancient way of life before they are changed by the modern era. Her photographs have been published widely in magazines, newspaper, calendars, postcards, as well as in four books: The Silk Road (2004), Mystic Iceland (2007), Hidden China (2008) and QTI -Alessandra Meniconzi, Il coraggio di esser paesaggio (2011)