National Arts and Crafts of Uzbekistan
Uzbek suzani is a token of protection from evil eyes and the fertility of a family. It reflects the wishes and desires of the people’s poetic soul.
An Uzbek wall hanging kilim suzani is a vital part of the arrangement and decoration of the Uzbek household. Especially a lot of various embroideries are prepared for the wedding in the bride’s family, where they constitute an obligatory part of the dowry and represented the set necessary to start the life of a young family. People believe that the magical power of the ornament of embroidered products protects the newlyweds from all kinds of evil forces.
According to an ancient tradition, suzani embroiderers leave a small part of the pattern uncompleted in suzani, so that “weddings would not end in the house so that the daughter would be alive so that the joy in the house would not end!” Ancient suzani patterns and sewing techniques pass from mother to daughter. Girls learn the art of embroidery trying to become good craftswomen. Each family makes his own suzani for themselves. For example, a piece of suzani takes one and a half to two years of work. A mother begins to embroider a dowry for her daughter when she is still little. And if the family does not have time to complete all the embroideries necessary for the wedding on their own, then they call their relatives and neighbors for help. Uzbek ladies use red tones widely on a white background to create a cheerful and joyful scale. Flowers and rosettes are full of red tones. They embroider the deciduous part of the ornament with green threads, and stems branches, and edging of leaves with olive and light sandy colors. This color combination generally corresponds to the natural color of plants and at the same time, it relates to the sonorous contrast of colors – red and green.
Colorful combinations in suzani embroidery can be the contrast of yellow and purple, red and blue, orange and blue, black and white, green, and orange. At the same time, in embroidered suzani products one can find shades of the same color next to each other, for example, combinations of light blue and cornflower blue, light yellow and golden, dark, and light crimson.
The main ornamental image of the suzani embroidery is a lush blooming garden. Even those details of the ornament that reproduce the images of the animal or objective world take on a vegetable appearance. Flowers move from flower beds and gardens to decorative items and, transform by the imagination of artists, turn into joyful folk patterns. Ornamental motives serve as a wish for happiness, wealth, and fertility. One can often see bright and colorful birds among bushes, branches, and flowers. These images are of particular interest since birds are almost the only living creatures that the people, despite the prohibitions of Islam, have preserved in the art. As a rare exception, silhouettes of animals and people can attract one’s attention. You can find them not in a prominent, attention-grabbing place, but on the side or on the edge of suzani.
Until the end of the 19th century, our ladies used mainly white or slightly reddish handmade fabrics for suzani. But already from the beginning of the last century, they started to use local silk fabrics of purple, green, and orange colors, as well as white and factory cotton fabrics with colors.
The exceptional beauty of nineteenth-century embroidery is mainly due to the fact that silk threads, dyed with natural dyes, produced deep, soft iridescent tones. Silk suzani is amazing! Starting from the middle of the XX century, people started to use sewing machines to create suzani. But again starting from the 1990s, handmade suzani has been taking the upper hand. Thus, suzani products of Uzbekistan are highly adored all over the world.
According to the pattern, theme, color tones, and fabrics, there are Samarkand suzani, Urgut suzani, Nurata/Nurota suzani, Shakhrisabz suzani, Bukhara suzani, Ferghana suzani, and Tashkent suzani schools of embroidery. Each of them is unique!
National Uzbek papier-mâché puppets
Puppets in Uzbekistan are more than simple dolls –they are a means of education and promotion of our national culture. Uzbek puppetry is deep in history! Throughout history, puppet performances have been an inexhaustible part of the Uzbek culture.
The national puppet is a bridge to the knowledge and understanding of history, traditions, and self-image of Uzbek culture. They revive in the hands of a master. Masters who work with them try to pass on their understanding of the world around them.
In the Middle Ages, local folks created them basing on their imaginations and wishes. Afterward, they used them in their fairy tale performances wishing for a bright future! Usually, they used to perform in the middle of the local markets.
The handmade art of making puppets was disappearing but for the last 20 years, it is reviving. They make them from reeds, ceramics, wood, straw, and papier-mâché. They can be glove puppets and marionette puppets.
Today, masters dress puppets in historical, thematic, and national costumes from fabrics, silk, wool, and leather. Thus, one can keep them as a souvenir at home. Because each of them is unique and none of them repeats!
Each puppet has a musculoskeletal system allowing little people to incline their whole body like real humans.
Our guests can visit Bukhara puppet/marionette theatre, participate in making them, and even buy if they wish. One feels himself as if in a fairy tale!
National Uzbek clay toys
One of the ancient arts in Uzbek history is making national clay toys. Actually, the history of making such toys goes back to the Buddhism religion. Also, in the past people’s lives fully depended on rain for their harvest. People created whistle-toys “Khushtak” with legendary figures and they believed that whistles could call clouds and clouds could bring the rain!
Samarkand and Bukhara ceramic schools were good at clay toys. A peculiar center was the village of Kasbi, where the craftswoman Ambar Sattarova worked in this sphere in the 1970s-80s, creating unique toys in the forms of birds and animals on wheels. The technics of such toys date back to ancient times, as evidenced by archaeological finds.
Another center is Denau/Denov, where the master brothers Badali Rasul Zukhurov, along with brown-yellow ceramics with greenish smudges typical for this school, created whistle-toys covered with light blue glaze. By the mid1980s and early 1990s, there was a change in the manufacture of toys in these centers, associated mainly with the change of generations. In connection with the death of Fatkhull Sagdullayev, the tradition of making molded figured ornaments on ceramic vessels is interrupted. The tradition of making original, inimitable Sagdullaev whistles toys was also interrupted, unique samples of which have been preserved only in the collections of museums and private collections.
Legendary animals, birds, horses, and rams that created up the most stock of pictures of clay toys had varied options. In some, the body ends in a very whistle, in others; it’s situated on the facet that makes it potential to concentrate on the form of the bird’s tail. Heads are characteristic parts of toys of this style. Within the sculpting of bird heads, this strength is manifested by observation, data of the masters of the characteristic options of the birds represented the toys of Rasul Zurukhov from Denau are of explicit interest. With a little vary of topics, they need originality. The peculiarity of Zukhurov’s toys is that not solely a four-legged construction with a whistle, however additionally the image of associate degree animal, that in its look is nighest to an even-toed ungulate, acts as a stable component that’s perennial altogether toys. The small print situated on the heads of animals acts as mobile parts of the shape that add selection to toys and supply a chance for the master to improvise.
The city masters of the 20th century additionally address toys in their work; however, their subject compositions are, possibly, already a miniature sculpture. The emergence of this type of little plastic arts within the art of city masters is related to the name of master Umarkul Dzhurakulov. These days his college is described by the works of the Mukhtarov family. Individuals busy with everyday affairs, heroes, warriors, dragons – all the works of the masters of the Mukhtarovs are marked by purity of type and integrity of compositions.
The most famous center is Uba village near the city of Vabkent/Vobkent, whereby the 1970s such as skilled craftsmen as Fatkhullo Sagdullaev and Khamro-bibi Rakhimova continued to work. Continuing centuries-old traditions, they at the same time possessed individual handwriting, their toys were easily recognizable. Uba toys are not covered with glaze, they are decorated with stucco and painting. The toys represent horses, dogs, riders, and fantastic animals.
In the distant Vabkent district of the Bukhara region, the famous hereditary craftswoman Kubaro Boboeva also creates miracles from clay.
In the Applied Art Museum of Tashkent there is a big collection of whistle-toys belonging to the different epoch of Uzbekistan history!
Ceramics in Uzbekistan
It is the Uzbek ceramics that occupies a privileged position among the many artistic crafts that have existed throughout history on our land. This is one of the most ancient and sought-after cultural wealth of the Uzbek nation. Fancy shapes and striking richness of patterns, lagans (big plates), vases, tiles, jugs and teapots, painted toys of Uzbek ceramics are highly required to this day.
Nowadays, like centuries ago, they are distinguished by high craftsmanship, the harmony of bold imagination, amazing magic of decorative solutions, and a subtle sense of style in color processing. Patterns impressive with the richness and variety of execution techniques of ceramic schools that were formed in the territory of Uzbekistan.
Each such Uzbek ceramic school differs not only in a certain type of manufactured products, the presence of peculiar patterns, molding, firing, and coloring techniques but also in its color range. Over the centuries, such Uzbek pottery centers as Tashkent, Samarkand, Khorezm, Rishtan, Gijduvan, and others were clearly defined and became famous.
Rishtan, Gurumsaray, and Andijan are the centers of the Ferghana school. It has a wide range of subjects and motifs. These are plant patterns: flowers and fruits of almonds “bodom-gul” and pomegranate “anor-gul”, shoots “islimi”, four-leaf “chorbarg”. The subject drawings consist of stylized images of jars and knives. The geometrical ornament is lines, notches, lattice patterns. Such virtuoso ceramic artists as Muzaffar Saidov and Alisher Nazirov, famous ceramists Rustam Usmanov, Bakhtiyor Nazirov, and others successfully represent the famous school of Rishtan ceramics. Among them are the Rishtan Nakkosh (Carver), whose works decorate the walls of museums around the world, and Sharofiddin Yusupov, a UNESCO diploma holder, academician of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan. In the ornament of the seventh generation of potters reign plant and still-life motifs with lush bushes of blooming pomegranate, almond, images of thin kumgans, fairytale birds and fish – symbols of the renewed nature.
Andijan potter-Mirzabahrom Abduvahabov is the representative of the fifteenth generation of masters/artists, who gladly passes on the basics of the Andijan ceramics school to his children and grandchildren. He is a descendant of the famous Umar Kulol, who created masterpieces in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Mirzabahrom-aka, Andijan ceramics has undergone some changes over the past century, especially in the color of the painting. Yellow-green colors predominate in the palette. Archaic astral signs, curls, birds’ scallops, floral motifs are present in the ornaments of Andijan ceramics. As explained by the masters, the raw materials necessary for making dishes are mined in the surrounding foothills. It is necessary to know the exact time of grass collection, to dry them correctly, to observe a mode of decay during burning, to clean ash from impurities, to add sand in necessary proportions, to sustain high temperature during burning.
The decor of the Khorezm school of ceramics is restrained and noble. It has a strict color – deep tones of blue and turquoise-green on a white background. Nowadays, its traditions are developed by a recognized master, son of Raimberdy Matchanov, a classic of Khiva ceramics, Odil from the village of Madir. Khorezm ceramics is recognizable thanks to graceful geometric patterns on the inner surface of traditional dishes – badia, enriched with vegetable motifs.
The main feature of Bukhara-Samarkand school ceramics is the use of traditional lead glaze and green-yellow and brown dyes, which largely determined the character of the figurative sound of products. Today the traditions of this school are successfully represented by masters from
Gijduvan – Alisher Narzullaev, academician of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, and his brother Abdullo Narzullaev. In Urgut, the art traditions of his father, the famous master Mahkam Ablakulov, are continued by his son Nugman Ablakulov.
The most archaic, preserving authentic technological and artistic technique is irrigated ceramics. These traditions have been preserved and raised to a new creative level by the masters of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Sharif Azimov, and Khudoyberdi Hakberdiyev, as well as talented ceramists Kholmukhammad Ismatullayev and Ilkhom Bobomuradov.
Ceramics of Samarkand is known for its ancient traditions based on numerous archaeological finds in the settlement of Afrosiab. Not forgetting its origins, Samarkand masters work in the genre of small plastics.
A young ceramist from Bukhara, Abduvahid Karimov, is demonstrating an innovative trend in modern irrigation ceramics at the exhibition. Almost all his works are executed on a white and black scale, decorated with the technique of ancient Arabic painting of the Samanid period.
The Tashkent ceramic studio of Mr. Rakhimov is successfully developing in Tashkent, thanks to which the masterpieces of ancient and medieval ceramics revived, as well as the secrets of technology and artistic techniques of the craftsmanship of various schools of folk ceramics of Uzbekistan of the 19th – early 20th centuries. The studio of ceramics has a workshop with pottery products for sale.
Uzbek ceramics always used to attract, still attracting and will attract connoisseurs of Uzbek pottery!
Jewelry in Uzbekistan
The root of the jewelry art of Uzbekistan goes back in the 12th century BC. Since then the technique of this profession has been passing mostly from father to son. It still does not lose its importance.
Archeologists found such precious antique jewelry findings in an ancient grave on the banks of Chirchik River. There were spiral bronze bracelets. Another treasure that archeologists found near the Amudarya River belonged to Bactrian jewelers of 5th century BC. One more outstanding finding was from Dalverzintepa (Surkhandarya): 32 kg of antique silverware and other metals, decorated with precious stones.
In the past, Uzbek jewelry was not only a means of luxury but also a talisman saving from bad evil eyes, illness, and even death. People believed that it would bring luck, prosperity, wealth, health, and happiness.
- Turquoise was quite popular among soldiers. There was a belief it would bring victory during fights.
- Carnelian had the name “hakik”. Folks believed that it would bring wealth and health.
- Silver had the name “clean metal”. Folks believed that it could save from bad evil eyes and poisoning.
- Pearls were quite popular in a national therapy –Folks believed that pearl can treat many types of illnesses.
- Other types of Uzbek jewelry also have specific meanings and purposes.
Usually, this profession goes from ancestor to generation. But there are cases when jewelers take learners from outside.
The list of tools of a jeweler was too basic: a forge, an anvil, tongs, and a hammer. They used to make masterpieces with those simple tools.
Silver was the most widely used material in the past. People used it for women’s jewelry, parts of clothes, weapons, special instruments, and dishes. Mostly jewelers used precious stones to silver jewelry. Uzbek gold was popular among Bukhara jewelers as gold was mined in Zarafshan River.
Nowadays, Uzbek jewelers care and preserve the ancient technique of jewelry production.
Each region of Uzbekistan has jewelry markets/bazaars and also, shops.
The peculiarity of Uzbek gold jewelry is its color-deep orange and openwork! Karakalpakstan’s jewelry style differs from the jewelry of other Uzbekistan regions with its rectangular edges. Thus, Uzbek jewelry attracts people all over the world with its uniqueness and delicateness.
Blacksmithing in Uzbekistan
From ancient times, Uzbek blacksmithing has been one of the most widespread branches of the craft. However, the degree of its development depended, first of all, on the availability of local raw materials. Uzbekistan has long been rich in such minerals as gold, silver, copper, iron, etc. In 1913, local artisans engaged in the production of metal products represented 19 independent industries, which testified to the importance of the blacksmith’s profession.
The most developed industry until the 20s of the last century was foundry, known in Khorezm under the name “degrezchi” or “kozonchi” (casters of boilers), and in Bukhara – “pozachi” or “pozagar” (casters of plowshares). About 80 – 85% of all foundry production was the production of plowshares. This production was especially popular in Bukhara, Tashkent, Khiva, Kokand, Shakhrisabz, and other cities, where there were quarters (mahalla) with the corresponding names, the majority of the population of which were foundry workers.
In addition to casting iron boilers (kozon), they made various agricultural implements and household items – openers, grates for stoves and fireplaces, teapots, mortars for grinding tobacco, vessels for cooking glue, shoes for pestles of local grain choppers, bushings for a cartwheel, braziers, various lamps, jugs for washing, and other household items were cast on order. For castings, special molds blacksmith created a shape from raw sand with the addition of wheat flour and a shoe glue.
The workshops were mainly in the living area, and they had a small forge, a small and large anvil. From the back of the furnace, where the forge was located, a lance was made, into which air was blown through a nozzle made of refractory clay. There was an oven in the yard for drying casting molds in winter. The molten cast iron was scooped up with iron ladles coated with refractory clay and poured into molds of silty sand.
Foundry tools had various names in different regions. For example, the horn in Fergana and Tashkent is called “yondokon”, in Bukhara – “kora”, in Khorezm – “dastgokh”. Of the tools, all foundry workers used “chorchup”, “charkh”, a “belkurak” spatula, “iskanja” tongs, “langir”, “tovancha”, “tovancha”, “sikhcha”, etc. for making molds.
According to some sources, before the conquest of Central Asia by Tsar Russia, local masters produced firearms here and even cast cannons. There were famous cannon-making masters in Khiva. The casting of bells and bells from bronze has emerged as a special industry.
In the late XIX – early XX century blacksmithing of Uzbekistan was developing. Among blacksmiths, there was a division in the labor specializations. So, there were special blacksmiths making knives, locks, awl and needles, locksmith, various utensils and nails, horseshoes, tin products, etc…
Blacksmiths made about twenty types of hoes, various types of shovels, axes, sickles, hammers, and other tools. Local craftsmen used about 40 types of drilling tools. Bukhara blacksmith used to produce 32 types of metal products.
In the past, metal processing divided into four main branches: blacksmithing, jewelry, and copper-stamped production, and the production of tin products. The oldest of these industries, as most people noted, was blacksmithing.
At the beginning of the last century, individual districts or entire regions specialized in the production of metal products. Thus, famous, well-known manufacturers of richly decorated Uzbek knives worked in Andijan, Chust, Namangan, Khiva, Bukhara, and Karshi.
In Khiva, one group of blacksmiths made Khorezmian shovels, hoes, another – carpentry tools, axes, the third – horseshoes for horses, donkeys, and shoes, as well as nails. In Khanka, some blacksmiths were experts in making sickles
The tools of labor of blacksmiths and locksmiths consisted of a set of hammers, a sledgehammer, files, an anvil, a forge, fur for blowing air, a vice, a boiler with water for hardening objects, hand sharpeners, several pairs of tongs and pliers, chisels and other tools. Almost all the tools needed in metalworking, except for those used by foundry workers and jewelers, were actually the same, differing only in size and quantity. Workshops for blacksmiths, knife makers, and tinsmiths were mainly in the bazaar in the ranks of artisans.
Nowadays Bukhara blacksmithing is quite well known for its Damascus steel knives and stork shaped scissors. We arrange a master class in a blacksmith workshop for our guests. It is really an experience for them!
Metal chasing (embossing) in Uzbekistan
Uzbek metal chasing (kandakorlik) is one of the craft types that glorified Uzbek nation. Its history goes back to antiquity, second only to pottery. Local craftsmen have mastered the art of making various products from gold, silver, copper, bronze, and other metals for a long time.
Copper embossing appeared in Central Asia, in particular in Uzbekistan, in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, and spread widely throughout the region. Initially, these items depicted various small events, animals, etc. For example, on a ritual cauldron found in Fergana, a ritual was depicted, where the “animal style” is clearly visible. In ancient times and in the early Middle Ages, local master-“kandakors” depicted on objects made of precious metals intended for rulers and aristocracy, various solemn events – enthronement, hunting, struggle and others, images of mythical and epic heroes, pictures of life and life, game and other creatures. Discovered numerous chased items from the pre-Islamic Mawarannahr period depicting scenes of high life testify to the wide distribution of this unique branch of artistic craft at that time. In the Middle Ages, they not only made highly artistic gold and silver objects but also covered with gold certain details of magnificent buildings. At this time, more and more objects made of silver and copper appear – various dishes or trays, square or spherical jugs with ornaments, beautiful inkpots, kumgans, stupas with pestles, and other items.
Many items made of copper and its alloy; silver and bronze were embossed to express wishes of happiness and well-being, and calligraphic inscriptions in Arabic in the styles of “kufi” or “naskh”. Discovered near Registan Square and dating back to the period of developed feudalism (XIV-XV centuries), a unique treasure contained household items, in particular, various dishes, bowls, buckets with a copper bottom (tagli), lids, jugs, boilers, washstands, and much more, which show how the art of Uzbek masters-kandakors was developed.
Coppersmiths (misgarlik) occupy an important place in the craft of metalworkers. They made various utensils and household items from yellow and red copper, most of which were decorated with different ornaments. Unlike other metalworkers who used the hot forging method, coppersmiths worked their products cold but used forging when joining separate parts of large objects, such as a tung (large water-bearing vessel) and a lagan. Typically, this type of craft is divided into two specialties: copper carvers (nakkosh misgar) and product makers.
In the manufacture of ornamented tableware, various carving techniques were used. The exceptional compositional complexity of the painting, the composition of the products of the Uzbek embossers on copper, the variety of painting themes and its elements testify to the long and complex historical path of the development of this branch of the craft.
For example, the carving made in the styles “modohil”, “islimi” and “namoyon” on dozens of types of samples of classical Uzbek coinage on copper, once again testifies to the antiquity of this art form. The reflection of the historical events experienced by our people, their worldview, hopes and aspirations, as well as economic activity through individual elements of the painting or their complex allows us to judge the way of life of our ancestors.
Judging by the names of individual elements of the painting, local craftsmen in the past executed orders from representatives of foreigners or used the methods and styles of minters from other countries in their work. For example, the islimi among the ornaments – mashadi, islimi afghani, islimi arabi – indicate that Uzbek masters apparently executed orders from foreigners, which undoubtedly contributed to the enrichment of their art. On some objects there are images of some fantastic images associated with another religion (snakes, birds, insects and other living creatures).
At present, the coinage on copper reflects the images of people, their labor, cotton flowers with leaves, coats of arms and other symbolic images. Especially delicate ornaments are found on copper kumgans, basins, teapots and bowls, incense burners (chilim), jugs, cups, etc. On individual samples, along with the minted image, various inscriptions or names were applied, sometimes precious stones, turquoise, and beads were inserted. Even the vocabulary of Uzbek embossers and the names of ornaments allow us to reveal some elements of their worldview, the degree of spiritual culture, and way of life.
In each region of the republic, this branch of production was distinguished by its characteristics in terms of the types of products and the nature of the ornament. For example, a vessel for washing in Bukhara is called “oftoba”, in Samarkand and Tashkent – “obdasta”, in Khorezm – “kumgan”, which also differ in their shape.
By the definition of researchers, these vessels, which resemble ancient Afghan washstands, are beautiful, graceful, and smoothly finished. Khiva kumgans are flat, with a long and thin neck, without handles. Shakhrisabz masters decorate their office with glass mosaics and multi-colored glaze. Bukhara metal chasers made their “oftoba” low, with a large and short convex neck, and a domed lid. Karshi’s “oftoba” is distinguished by a separately made spout, vertically attached to the base. The people of Bukhara applied to this nose a carved ornament in the form of flowers, as well as a mosaic of glass and other stones and metals.
Metal chasing of Uzbekistan has the following schools: Bukhara, Samarkand, Khorezm, Karshi, Shakhrisabz, Tashkent differing in some peculiarities in the way of applying the ornament, its style, and form. Nowadays, Bukhara metal chasing is very popular among tourists.
Plaster carving in Uzbekistan
The most widespread of the extant decorative arts is an Uzbek plaster carving. Samples of such images found in historical monuments were mostly humorous in nature. Masters usually use clay, lime, and gypsum.
For example, archeologists found plaster images dating back to this time in the elegant living room of Toprakkala (III-IV centuries), delicate carvings of plant ornament on the Varakhsha settlement, various carved plaster images of fish, birds, and animals. The carved geometric patterns are stunning pieces of art. Ancient masters borrowed their works from the world of plants and animals, rendering their images stylistically. They applied a thick layer of alabaster to the wall, portal, column, and then applied colorful ornaments directly over it without any samples. Alabaster/Ganch/Plaster carving (in Uzbek language “ganchkorlik”) of Uzbekistan has developed rapidly since the early Middle Ages. This art form has reached a high level in Maverannahr. In the south of Uzbekistan, during the study of interiors, scientists discovered wall portals and vaults of tombs, very skillfully carved ornaments. For example, when decorating tombs in the 12th century in Termez, folks used a new style of ornamentation in the form of stalactites.
The fine examples of alabaster/ganch/plaster carving created in Afrosiab in the following centuries, closely intertwined with tiled decorations and stone carvings, gave special beauty to the palace buildings. The heyday of this art form in the region falls on the XVIII-XIX centuries. Some craftsmen carefully preserve the original styles and techniques of the carving. They created their own schools in different regions of the republic. If in antiquity three-dimensional images with specific content and ornamental motif were typical for the carving, then in the middle of the century beautiful floral and geometric ornaments with deep carvings mainly appear. Since the beginning of the 20th century, colorful small-relief patterns have been spreading in the art of alabaster/ganch/plaster carving. Currently, there is a desire to combine colorful subjects with fine alabaster/ganch/plaster carvings. Therefore, most masters not only know the art of carving but are also excellent craftsmen. In addition to carving, they make various cornices, brackets, lattices (panjara), and other decorative details that are very common in construction. In small rooms, craftsmen made carvings on small planes, in large ones – large-scale ornaments. Master used various methods and styles in the carving, ranging from large carved panels to small details with chains and geometric ornaments, which were traditional in architecture. In all branches of Uzbek folk art, floral ornament is predominant, but it is most often used together with geometric. Master carvers use different styles of carving (“zaminkori”, “choka-pardoz”, “luli-pardoz” and “tabaka-pardoz”). The last one is the newest. Each of these styles differs in the depth of carving and the way of ornamentation, but they all interrelate with each other. Carvers make highly artistic carved decorations not only for administrative buildings, institutions of art and culture, but also decorate private houses and cottages by order, which is especially characteristic of recent years. Massive details of carvings intended for large structures and master made special monument molds and poured plaster. Such wonderful architectural structures as the Navoi Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, the Khamza Drama Theater, the Mukimi Musical Comedy Theater, many monumental administrative, sports, trade, and palace buildings in Tashkent and regional centers have such rich decorations, unique in form and style carving on alabaster. The use of bright and delicate colors applied to a delicate ornament gives these structures a special beauty and charm. Such outstanding masters of Uzbekistan plaster carving-“ganchkors” as Honored Worker of Arts, Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shirin Myradov, Honored Worker of Arts, laureate of the International Prize Abdulla Baltaev, Tashpulat Arslankulov, Usman Ikramov, Anvar Kuliev, Shamsiddin Gafurov, Kuli member of the Academy of Sciences, Honorary Uzbekistan Yusuf Ali Musaev and others, with their original works, raised the artistic culture of the Uzbek people to an unprecedented level.
Wood carving in Uzbekistan
Since ancient times, Uzbek wood carving has been one of the popular arts in Uzbekistan. In the manufacture of all wooden products, especially household utensils, doors, gates, pillars and supports, chests, tables (sandalwood), and other products, a high-relief ornament (collar) is widely used.
Uzbek wood carving products, which our ancestors created and extant to us are still striking in their variety and richness of ornament. Unique historical wood carving examples of Uzbekistan can be found in archeological sites like Yumalaktepa, Surkhandarya region, Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, and other archaeological sites. According to the researchers, before the Arab conquest, in every house, one could see an image of a deity made of wood. It was usually above the front door of a residential building. If this wooden image was old, the owner had to update it. With the arrival of the Arabs, in accordance with the dogmas of Islam, the visual arts, especially sculpture, fell into decay.
Wood carving masters are gradually changing the form and content of their products, moving to geometric and floral ornaments, from simple images to more complex and highly artistic ones (landscapes and flora). In the IXth-Xth centuries in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, the art of wood carving received a significant development. A feature of this period is that carvers based their ornaments on allegories and dreams, good wishes, and hopes. They represent blessings and prayers. In the subsequent period (XI-XIII centuries), a complex geometric pattern of the “chirikh type” prevails in folk decorative and applied art, patterns on household items and architectural structures become more artistic and subtle. As an example, we can notice samples of wood carving in Samarkand in the Shakhi-Zinda complex, carved doors, and columns in Kunya-Urgench. On wood carving objects of the Timurid’s era, there are images of living beings, contrary to the requirements of Islamic ideology. An example of this is the ornaments on the wooden door of the Rukhabad tomb in Samarkand, images of a bird, a snake, and other living beings.
Many times Uzbek master demonstrated some samples of Uzbek folk decorative and applied art at international exhibitions: in 1925 in Paris, then in Leipzig, in 1927 all over the world, and in 1937 Uzbek masters at the exhibition “Art and Technology Today” in Paris won the two “Grand Prix” and two silver medals. In 1939, Uzbek masters again demonstrated their works at the “Future Era” exhibition in New York, where they obtained a diploma, and in 1938 masters from Tashkent, Bukhara, Khiva, and Fergana exhibited their wood and alabaster wares at the Exhibition of Economic Achievements in Moscow.
Almost all administrative buildings, theaters, restaurants, shops, and other structures erected in the capital of the republic have decorations with wonderful examples of alabaster carving and wood carving, testifying to the high skill of Uzbek architects and artisans. Currently, there is not a single city and village where it would be impossible to find samples of wood carving. In addition to traditional methods and techniques of wood carving used in the construction of large public, cultural, and administrative buildings, restaurants, cafes, as well as in individual construction, masters use modern artistic means, new forms, and stylistic techniques. Pillars, cornices, and lattices have decorations of mainly rich plant and geometric ornaments. Traditional techniques of carving are still popular in the manufacture of various utensils and in decoration.
Gold embroidery in Uzbekistan
Not a single kind of applied art has ever enjoyed such love as gold embroidery, praised since ancient times by wise ancestors. According to archeology and historical sources, the art of gold embroidery of Uzbekistan has been known since the first centuries of our era. For example, in the Tashkent region, details of women’s clothing with gold embroidery dating back to the AD I-II centuries were found. The written source of the Middle Ages “Journey to India” by Abdurazzak Samarkandi contains information about the clothes of Herat and India decorated with gold embroidery during the reign of Shahrukh. Documents and monuments dating back to the same time mention the craft of Uzbek gold embroidery masters and their products. The famous Samarkand poet of the 17th century Fitrat was dealing with gold embroidery and its beautiful ornaments on the fabric itself.
By the beginning of the last century, schools of Uzbek gold embroidery appeared in Bukhara, Samarkand, Fergana, Khiva, and other places. Beautifully and richly decorated gold embroidery products were in great demand among various social strata of the local population. Such clothes were made by the hands of hundreds of craftswomen. First of all, by order of aristocrats, officials of the khan’s palace, large merchants, and landowners. Inherited from ancestors, this unique craft consisted of decorating with a gold thread such types of clothing as jacket “kamzul”, robe “chakmon”, fabric belt “belbog”, turban “salla”, skullcap “duppi”, sharp pointed skullcap “kulokh”, and shoes.
According to the researchers, none of the court officials had the right to order such gold embroidery products for themselves, because they were for gifts (sarpo) of the local ruler – khan or emir. Usually, master embroidered gold embroidery chapans (robes) specially on the instructions of the khan for this or that figure or official, and then presented them during holidays or on special occasions.
After the overthrow of the Bukhara Emir, such gift items of gold embroiderers found their places in the museums. Local people still consider legendary Hazrati Yusuf as the patron saint of craftsmen. It is noteworthy that under the emir in Bukhara, these unique masters (zarbof) had their workshops only at the court. They numbered up to 350 gold embroidery masters, whose descendants continue to work to this day, improving their skills. Noteworthy is not only a variety of clothes but also large panels and curtains, curtains and curtains reflecting a certain theme. Most of them have floral and floral designs embroidered with gold thread, often on velvet.
Uzbek skullcap (tubeteika)
The pride of the Uzbek art of embroidery has always been the Uzbek skullcap making (doppisozlik). Like other types of applied art, skullcap making varied in different areas, both in style and method and in form. Known not only in Uzbekistan but also in neighboring countries, the Chust skullcap (doppi/duppi/tubeteika) enjoyed great success, distinguished by the originality of ornaments, style, shape, and proportionality of embroidered decorations.
Uzbek skullcaps resembling tree branches and leaves embroidered with silk thread are excellent examples of folk art due to their bright multicolored ornament. So, for example, bright ornaments richly embroidered with multi-colored threads distinguish Shakhrisabz skullcaps, quilted colorful skullcaps from Boysun, Chelak, Karshi, and other fogs stand out in a peculiar form, and to this day, Khorezm skullcaps – takhya, quilted and embroidered (women’s).
In Uzbekistan, especially in Tashkent, Chust, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Baysun, national types of skullcaps are known, which are very popular. Embroidered in a special way “iroki” chust doppi/duppi, gilam doppi/duppi, chakmadur, kyzyl gul, piltuzi, zarduppi have acquired new content in recent years. For example, great masters invented such ornaments as “channel”, “plane”, “parachute”, and “dove”, embroider names, dates, or good wishes on skullcaps.
Skullcap making craft of Uzbekistan has been passing from ancestors to generations for centuries and it is still not losing its significance.
Are you interested in where to buy an Uzbek skullcap? Each region’s cloth bazaar/market sells skullcaps.
In recent decades, one of the most important traditional branches of arts and crafts, Uzbek carpet making (gilamduzlik), has been rapidly developing on a modern industrial basis in the country. According to archaeological data, the production of Uzbek carpets and rugs, the centers of which were in Andijan, Samarkand, Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya, and Khorezm, has been known in Uzbekistan since the 1st millennium BC.
Colorfully decorated Uzbek carpets and rugs are from threads of eight or nine colors, the most common among which are dark and bright red. In the past, local carpet makers, in addition to the main products, made “khurjuns” (a rug bag), “osma halta” (a hanging bag), and various custom-made items.
According to experts, there have been three schools of carpet weaving in Uzbekistan since ancient times – Samarkand, Andijan, and Khorezm. Each carpet making school is unique in ornaments and patterns. Andijan carpets were unique by the strength of the base of the fabric, bright red-green colors, and rich ornamentation. Fergana carpets have a deep blue range of colors and geometric patterns, short pile, in the center there is an ornament “turunj”, along the edges there are colorful drawings. There was another school of Bukhara carpet, which is unique by a variety and multi-colored range, long pile, size, and richness of ornaments. Khiva, Urgut, Karshi and other carpets are famous for their ornament, elegance, and high quality.
There are three types of carpets: woven on a special machine, stitched, and printed. Uzbek carpets are mostly woven. Usually, women make them on a small loom from camel down, lamb wool, cotton, and silk thread. Until the beginning of the past century, folks mainly used vegetable paints, and now aniline paints.
Since ancient times, in the cattle-breeding regions of Uzbekistan, they have been making felt, which lay on the floor, was used to cover yurts, from which ladies also made jackets “beshmet”, caps and other products. Felts are smooth with multi-colored ornaments.
In Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya ladies make carpets from black sheep wool, and in Khorezm – from the wool of “Takyanamat” sheep. Well-tousled wool is washed, dried, and then ruffled again with special twigs. Only after that, the clean wool is spread, apply painted fluff in accordance with the shape of the details of the ornament, and then roll into a felt. In the production of felt, they usually use methods of “gazhar” and “beshkamta”. And now in Uzbekistan they make a beautiful felt from wool dyed in different colors.
We arrange a special visit to a carpet factory in Samarkand for our tourists! They can participate partially in the weaving and watching the process of Uzbek carpet!
Throughout history, in oriental countries carpets were highly adored and usually were given as a gift to kings. Uzbek carpets were one of the most precious goods of the Silk Road due to its weaving technique, charming patterns, softness, and durability. Uzbek folks created a lot of proverbs, fairy tales, and legends relating to the carpet. Even Islamic tradition dictates that Solomon “had a green silk carpet, on which his throne was located….The wind, at his command, took up the carpet, and transported it, with all that were upon it.”. No wonder if the Magic carpet/flying carpet was the result of Central Asian folks’ imagination and fantasy results!