Traditional embroidery of Kashkadarya Province is known by publications on iroki embroidery developed in Shakhrisabz and surrounding villages. At the same time, embroidery from other parts of Kashkadarya, performed mainly in bosma technique traditional for Uzbekistan, has basically not been studied until recently.
Given this fact, in 2008 during the «Asrlar Sadosi» festival the author of this article collected some materials on embroiderers from different areas of Kashkadarya and on the basis of these data the itinerary of a scientific expedition led by A. Khakimov was developed. In the same year with support from the «Forum for Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan» Foundation a scientific field work expedition into the region was organized, as a result of which some interesting material on carpet making and embroidery of the region was gathered (the author expresses her gratitude to the leadership of the expedition for making these materials available).
Along with embroidered items from Karshi and Shakhrisabz and museums, another 106 items from the following districts and villages of Kashkadarya Province have been described and studied: Mubarek (Geolog and Jeynau villages), Karshi (Shoykhuja village) Kasansay (Ak-Tepa, Jizzalik, and Obron villages), Dekhkanabad (Okyirtma village), Kasb (Kasbi center), Chirakchi (Madaniyat, and Chiyali villages), Yakkabag (Korasuv and Khujrob villages), Kitab (Doniyorshayh, Varganza, Kurama and Chirkai, and Uruskishlak villages), Shakhrisabz (Doung, Avaz Malik, Shambi, Ovul, Uchuyli, Miroku, Palandara, Narimanov, Hazrati Bashir and other villages).
The 106 items decorated with embroidery and described during the expedition include suzane, joynamaz (prayer mats), joypush (bedding cover), takiyapush (small suzane), zardevor (niche cover), women’s and men’s sashes, bridal kerchiefs, pillowcases, skullcaps and other items.
This article provides an indicative characterization of ornamental and compositional features of traditional embroidery produced in several villages of Kasansay (western part) and Kitab (eastern part) districts of Kashkadarya region over the past 50-60 years.
In Kasansay district populated mostly by ethnic Uzbeks the research team studied carpet and embroidery centres in Ak-Tepa (women-masters Gavhar Jumaeva, b. 1969, and Baina Bekmuradova, b. 1953), Kuyi Obron (women-master Fazilya Khakberdieva, b. 1942) and Jizzalik (this village is home to two Russian women of an amazing life-path, who engage in traditional Uzbek embroidery — Taisiya Fyodorovna Gavrilina (b. 1940) and Nina Ivanovna Marchishina (b. 1945)). In these villages the researchers found original embroidery designs, including those with zoomorphic compositions in the form of stylized birds inside rosettes rarely found in other regions, samovar designs, and others.
In Ak-Tepa village populated mostly by Uzbeks of Mangyt tribe only a small number of embroidered items were identified. These are mainly small suzane rugs with rosette-type composition known as oyly (from oy, the moon; essentially, this is an ornamental circular rosette). The embroidery was made in 1970-1971 by B. Bekmuradova who was then 17 years old. She herself comes from the Mangyt kin, among whom the craft of embroidery has never been popular. Yet the item suggests that Bekmuradova mastered the art of embroidery well.
A small suzane embroidered by S. Khairulaeva in 1951 at the age of 18 features 15 rosettes with horn-like sprouts along the edges. Although the women-master is an ethnic Tajik, the designs she embroidered are characteristic of the ornamentation of nomadic cattle-breeding tribes. The overall pattern of the rosettes resembles the style of Urgut embroideries with black sprouts symbolizing the horns of a sheep or ram. Embroidery items discovered in Ak-Tepa village, their ornamentation and workmanship technique suggest that this westernmost area of Kashkadarya Province was under the influence of the Samarqand embroidery school on the one hand, and carpet weaving traditions of the region’s nomadic tribes on the other.
In Kuyi Obron a large number of carpets and embroidered items had been found. Fazilya Khakberdieva (b. 1942), one of the leading woman-masters in the village, has been engaged in embroidery and carpet-making since she was 18. In 1959 she created a suzane with twelve patterned rosettes all over the field. It resembles a similar suzane from Ak-Tepa. Characteristic are the names used for designs: a rosette — oy nuskha (moon pattern); inside it — olma gul (apple blossom); on the edges — oba gul (water pattern). All of them are semantically associated with the coming of spring and Navruz festival.
Embroidered items quite interesting in terms of ornamentation have been preserved in the family of a local school teacher Markhamat Norkulova (b. 1953). Among them is an old joynamaz rug embroidered by her mother Kizman Baratova (b. 1918) presumably back in 1930s. Over a homespun calico she put a delicate and exquisite vegetable pattern embroidered with silk threads in ilma technique using a bigiza (needle with a hook). Along with lola-gul pattern, the joynamaz decoration also uses motifs such as kalampir-nuskha (pepper pattern), oy nuskha (moon pattern), and chinda khayol (collected thoughts). Inside a mihrab rim there is a pattern that resembles highly stylized Arabic inscriptions. By and large, this is one of the rare specimens of exquisite Kashkadarya embroidery, which confirms the existence of strong traditions of the craft that existed in the region in the first half of the 20th century.
Norkulova presented two more suzane rugs and one joypush (cover) with an unusual zoomorphic (birds) and objective (samovar) ornaments, which were made about forty years ago by her sister Oyshahar Burieva. One of the suzane and a joypush made in 1970 share a common feature — an avian motif: a flying pigeon (kabutar or kaptar gul) with a characteristic tussock.
The relatively large square suzane of bright red satin features nine white and yellow rosettes encircling white and green doves with spread wings. The space between the rosettes is also filled with the same avian shapes, which look as if they were embroidered following a stencil. Pentactinal rosettes are embroidered on their chest.
The joypush is slightly smaller than the suzane, but the shapes of red and white birds are larger and are embroidered as a separate ornament, rather than inside the rosettes, on a dark-brown background. Circular rosettes are scattered among them, some of them have three sprouts. The dove is also a symbol of spring and the renewal of life, and local people have always associated it with the cult of nature’s rebirth. Other vegetable and floral suzane motifs, such as olma gul (apple blossom) and kajak gul (tendril), also belong to this category of suzane patterns.
A very original design is shown on another suzane, which the women masters call samovar suzane (1971) because of a pattern that resembles a carpet-making motif that was very popular among nomadic nations: chayon gul, or the scorpion pattern, which we also come across in embroidery. For instance, motifs of similar outline were discovered in several suzane rugs kept in Karshi and Shakhrisabz museums, yet this motif on those suzane has a pronounced vegetable character. There is no doubt that Burieva’s suzane shows the samovar motif, because inside she embroidered a rainbow pattern — atlas nuksha, borrowed from the satin ornament, and in this case, it certainly symbolizes a flame. Carpet-weavers from the neighbouring Mubarek district eagerly use this pattern in their compositions.
Suzane decor created in Jizzalik village also features avian images. However, the authors of the pattern (chizmakash) were different woman masters. In the village two takiyapush of the same size with birds motifs were discovered; these were embroidered with silk threads in 1973 and 1979. According to a local school teacher Gulsary Rasulova, the author of the design is her aunt Jamoat-amma, who is more than 80 years old.
Images of birds are also present on a suzane appropriately called kaptari oy suzane (pigeon motif). It was created in 1985 based on the designs of Holbibi Hazratova (b. 1930), who also embroidered it. Her birds have similar outline to the birds of Jamoat-amma on the 1973 takiyapush and to the bird images on a suzane from the neighboring Obron village, which may suggest that this theme was a local fashion during 1970s-1980s. Presently, this motif is almost never used by traditional women masters. Hazratova taught herself how to create patterns: besides kaptari oy, the designs she uses include Samarqand oy (Samarqand pattern), atrgul oy (rose), kilichak (sword — a wooden instrument to compact carpet filaments).
In Obron village we also found a suzane with 12 circular rosettes (1972), which was designed by G. Rasulova’s mother — Ziyoda Rasulova. The women masters called this pattern Kashkadaryo nuskha oy (Kashkadarya pattern). It is noteworthy that this rosette is very similar to the oy-nuskha of Baysun suzane — the similarity is emphasized by the characteristic red colour of the fabric, on which the ornamental composition is embroidered. In Jizzalik village we also found embroidered joynamaz rugs and other household items with patterns suggesting that their ornamentation was influenced by the traditions of Samarqand school of traditional embroidery.
Areas where traditional embroidery was most common have always been the central and particularly the north-eastern districts, which Shakhrisabz-Kitab school belongs to. Given the abundant material from this region, we shall limit ourselves to the characteristics of rather interesting specimens from Doniyorshakh village in Kitab District. The village population is a mix of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks. The village’s craftswomen engage in both carpet weaving and embroidery. A village resident R. Muminova (b. 1941), also makes drawings for her items. For this reason her carpets and embroidery have common ornamental motifs, such as a scorpion, an amulet, a pentactinal star, a triangle, etc.
Of a huge suzane she embroidered in 1963, which resembles those of Baysun, only 12 circular rosettes (the woman master calls them doira (tambourine)), and a small round medallion inside, doyracha, remained. Unlike Baysun suzane, between her rosettes Muminova put a kordi osh motif typical of Samarqand embroidery, performed in black filaments. Another suzane embroidered by the woman master in 1983 is a complete composition of 12 rosettes. She also called these rosettes doira gul, and instead of kordy osh she embroidered twig-like motifs ending with flower buds and named them kajak gul. Muminova called patterns inside the rim guncha gul or olcha gul and olvali — cherry; Baysun women masters name this pattern oba — water.
The same principle of singling out two central rosettes in a multiple rosette composition is used by Muminova in a suzane embroidered in 1988. This time it has nine, rather than twelve rosettes, and a pattern between them is called kayrilma gul and is shaped like branches spreading in four directions, with an arrowhead tip.
For smaller items embroidered by Muminova, such as boshkars and belkars, she uses the same pattern names: kayrilma gul, guncha gul, olvali, etc. She takes into account the scale and space and skilfully adjusts the size and shape of her patterns, adapting them to a smaller scale. It is significant that in her carpet items she uses sandyk (trunk) motif popular in Samarqand embroidery.
Items similar in colour choice and ornamental techniques (rosette compositions), such as suzane, joypush, yastykpush, and joynamaz, were created by K. Abdullaeva (b.1938), the sister of R. Muminova. Some of them she embroidered following Muminova’s drawings; however, Abdullayeva’s works are very diverse in terms of ornamentation and patterns.
Thus, in her 1958 yastykpush and joypush with similar motifs she used rosettes, but called them oy-nuskha, rather than doira gul, as her sister did. Between the rosettes she uses a pattern in the shape of juniper branches, embroidered with black threads — archa gul. This same archa gul motif, apparently her favourite, features on her 1968 suzane, but the interpretation of the motif is more expressive this time: the pattern looks more like kordigosh motif. Usually, Abdullaeva tends to use space between rosettes effectively, employing a variety of vegetable designs, mostly embroidered with black threads, which she named raykhon gul, and small-size patterns in the rim were poetically named bulut nuskha. The series of items created by Abdullaeva in 1958 is continued in a very beautiful orange yastykpush with five large rosettes; between them one can again see the new interpretation of the pattern — twigs with a flower at the end, strongly resembling the kordy-osh pattern, but the woman master calls it tovus pat — peacock’s tail.
In her 1961 joypush Abdullaeva uses branching patterns in black threads between rosettes, but now she interprets them as chinor gul, although she says that these could also be marble-flowers — kuknori gul. For her small suzane also created in 1961, which is less saturated with designs, she uses another pattern — chayon gul, shaped as curved horn-like twigs. The master is very creative and imaginative, which shows in the ornamentation of a joynamaz, a suzane, and a joypush embroidered following her own drawings in 1960. The joynamaz and the suzane are embroidered on white satin, and the joypush — on a blue silk fabric. Her main ornamentation principle remains the same: a combination of rosettes and ornamental branches among them; still the woman master introduces new elements again. She employs her usual motifs, such as doiragul, archagul, kalampir gul, raykhon gul, olvali, oba suv and others, but in a new combination that gives her items a very special flavour.
In terms of the general principles of ornamental (rosette) and colour structure, the embroidery from Doniyorshakh village is akin to Surkhandarya embroidery style. However, the use of a large number of patterns, which is characteristic of the Samarqand school, allows a suggestion that Kashkadarya embroidery combines traditions of several regions.
Thus, studies conducted in the villages of Kashkadarya Province led to the following preliminary conclusions:
(1) patterns of Kashkadarya carpets and embroideries were interpenetrating as women masters often engaged in both carpet weaving and embroidery;
(2) the embroidery shows a unique blend between the traditions of local women masters and the traditions of Surkhandarya and the Samarqand embroidery schools;
(3) the peculiarity of Kashkadarya embroidery comes from the use of zoomorphic (birds, scorpion) and objective (samovar) ornamentation content in the 1970’s-1980’s;
and (4) in the suzane decoration one can identify two types of compositions: rosette patterns and freely arranged designs in the form of vegetation or avian images.