The Central Asian Touch

A photo essay

Having worked throughout Central Asia on artisan business development for more than a decade, I've found that the hands of the artisan touch everyday life in Central Asia in a way that is unique to the region:  sheared sheep provide wool that is felted by hand into yurt dwellings, men throughout Central Asia wear embroidered skull caps that immediately identify their area of origin through their shape and pattern, rounded loaves of bread that bear delicate pin-pricked floral patterns in their centers are cooked in tandoor ovens made by local potters, women embroider suzani to pack into ornate, brightly painted trunks until their wedding day as part of their dowry, glazed handmade tiles adorn mosques and madrassas and gleam in the sun. The landscape, which varies from mountain peaks to steppe and dessert, is punctuated with vibrant color from people's dress, turquoise tiles and pottery, embroidery, carpets, painting and other ornaments.

The set of images you see here are from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is easy to see specifically how the rich variety of textiles -- ranging from everyday dress to intricate embroideries used only for special occasions -- offers a true feast for the eyes.
Image descriptions:

A Hazara woman wearing traditional dress embroiders in Kabul, Afghanistan.
 
Embroidery made by returning refugees for sale in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The embroidery stitch known as Hanjar dozi or tar shumar is a thread count stitch often done in an all-over diamond pattern.
 
Women watch a concert in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
 
A market vendor shows off his gold embroidered wares in a market in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Originally reserved for the emir, gold embroidery is now widely used on everyday objectsÖ including tea cozies!
 
Embroidered skullcaps immediately identify the origin of the wearer. In this case, the caps are embroidered in the style of Shakrisabz, Uzbekistan in a scorpion pattern, which is said to protect the wearer from harm
 
Machine embroidered cushion covers for sale in Shakrisabz, Uzbekistan. The Soviets collectivized everything, including embroidery, and large machine embroidery factories were created in this region of Uzbekistan. Today the machines have been dispersed to private individuals and womenís organizations that continue producing goods using distinct Shakrisabz patterns.
 
In the southern village of Boysun, Uzbekistan, two hours north of the Aghan border, a master weaver teaches two apprentices to weave.
 
The hands of the master weaver are strong and skilled.
 
Two women in the Surkhandariya region of Uzbekistan show off the tradition of ìok en kilim,î which is unique to the southern region, where strips of embroidery are combined with strips of hand woven kilim carpets.
 
Rolls of hand woven ketene silk in rainbow hues for sale in the Tolkuchka market, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
 
Market women take a rest from selling in the green bazaar in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

Handmade puppets await their performance in the puppet theater in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

 

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