The Art of Embroidery: Subregional Networking on Multinational Nomination

© Lutfiya Mirzaeva

The art of embroidery is one of the ancient traditions of applied and decorative arts in Central Asia. The uniqueness and beauty of Central Asian embroidery, the abundance and diversity of its ornaments and techniques testify to the rich traditions of this art. Embroidery is widespread mainly in trade and handicraft cities and large villages along the Silk Roads in Central Asia. Each existing traditional schools have a unique symbol, style and color balance based on local knowledge and social practices.

Embroidery is common activity among women in Central Asia. Traditionally, women and girls embroider individually and in groups. Embroidery is passed down from generation to generation, mainly from mother to daughter, in the form of master-apprentice schools. Indigenous population in Central Asia wear embroidered items, it serves as a symbol of their devotion to their homeland and culture. It is especially found at craft fairs, festivals, contests, weddings and social festivities.

Networking on elaboration of the multinational nomination “The Art of Embroidery” in Central Asia was initiated by the NGO “Living Heritage” of Uzbekistan (“Umrboqiy Meros”) in May 2019. Main objectives of the networking were to strengthen collaboration among scholars and artisans in Central Asia and to promote joint safeguarding activities by inventory of traditional schools on art of embroidery in Central Asia.

Ad hoc working group has been created, which consisted of representatives from ICH stakeholders (governmental and non-governmental organizations, artisans and scholars) from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Offline and online meetings of the working group were organized from May 2019 to March 2020 on the monthly basis. In every meeting experts exchanged views on current status, development perspectives and safeguarding challenges of the art of embroidery in their countries.

It has been observed that element is practiced and transmitted almost in all the regions of three countries: Uzbekistan (especially in the centers of artistic embroidery such as Djizak, Fergana, Namangan, Nukus, Nurata, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Urgut, Tashkent, as well as other rural areas), Tajikistan(mostly in Dushanbe, Khujand, Kulob, Istaravshan, Bokhtar, Panjakent, Hisar, Gharm, Darvaz, Khorogh, as well as other cities and regional centres) and Kazakhstan (Eastern/Altay, South-Eastern/Almaty and Nothern/Mangystau and since last century in Western parts of the country). Annually, traditional textile festivals in Central Asia are being organized in Kazakhstan (“Korpefest”, “Kazakhstan oneri”, “Altyn sapa”), Uzbekistan (“Atlas Bayrami”, “Silk and Spices”, “Altin Kul”, “Raks Sekhri”, “Boysun Bahori”) and Tajikistan (“Diyori husn”, “Taronai Chakan”, “Idi Atlas”), where many masters from these countries and also from various regions of Central Asia participate and display their handmade art products. This kind of cultural events are proper places for exchanging knowledge and establishing dialogue among societies, groups and individual masters.

The multinational nomination “Traditional embroidery of Central Asia” was successfully completed and submitted to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in March 2020 by the National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO. The nomination will be examined by the ICH Intergovernmental Committee in 2022.

As follow up activity, following institutional members of the working group became coordinators for ICHCAP/IICAS Survey Project on Silk Roads Handicrafts Workshops, which was started in July 2021: Kazakhstan National Committee for the Safeguarding of the ICH, Institute of Culture and Information of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tajikistan and NGO “Living Heritage” of Uzbekistan.