TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Suzani
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  02-21-2000 on 05:46 a.m.
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The other textile that I used to illustrate the Salon is the "wedding suzani", which Taube and Vok suggest was used as a sheet on the bridal bed, with the mihrab implying
entry into a place of sanctity. Without getting into the gory details, perhaps it is worth directing our attention to this at this point. If true, it would clearly be considered a fascinating component of a wedding ritual.


Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  02-21-2000 on 07:09 a.m.
Hi Stephen - It may well be that suzani were dowry pieces used in some ways in weddings among Central Asian folks but we probably should note explicitly that we are shifting ground slightly when we move to suzani. Your salon title refers to the "Turkmen Wedding," and it is my understanding that suzani are Uzbek rather than Turkmen weavings. More, suzanis are usually seen to have been woven by settled folks in cities rather than by pastoral nomads. The attribution references I have seen are all to Central Asian cities rather than to tribe. Now someone may want to point out that Moskova noted that there are "Turkmen Uzbeks" in the Nurata Basic (O'Bannon's translation, Chapter 12) but suzanis are not listed among the weavings they produced. The two Eilands refer on page 253 in their recent edition of the survey to Vok's book on suzanis and provide the following sentence. "Ordinarily, suzanis and carpets are not made by the same people, and their designs show little in common." The Eilands acknowledge in their notes that many questions about the proper attribution of suzanis remain. But on the whole, the information we have would seem to suggest that suzani are outside the set of weavings used in most Turkmen weddings. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE: Suzanis
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  02-21-2000 on 09:28 a.m.
While suzanis are associated with Uzbeks rather than Turkmen, the latter did produce embroideries in similar technique, of which the Tekke(?) embroidered asmalyks are the best-known example. I don't know whether these are wedding-specific. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE: Suzanis are
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  02-21-2000 on 02:41 p.m.
Dear folks - I spoke carelessly and inaccurately above by describing suzanis as "weavings." They are made on a ground cloth which is woven but they are decorated with varieties of embroidery and I should have described them as such. The ground cloth is sometimes used to estimate age but is, I think, otherwise incidental. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Wedding night suzani
Author  :  Jim+Allen
Date  :  02-23-2000 on 04:30 p.m.
This textile is from the Whitworth Art gallery in Manchester, and, according to Jakob Taube and Ignazio Vok (5), was used as a sheet on the bridal bed, the mihrab implying entry into a place of sanctity, a symbolism common in Islamic art and architecture. I can attest to the fact that these suzani exist and do so in a spectrum. I am researching this subject right now and I have put together a large collection of this material. Here is the result of some of my reading. "Suzani's (Persian, suzan, needle) formed an important part of a bride's dowry. After the birth of a girl, the mother would start to embroider and later the daughter would join her. NOTE: Large pieces of cloth embroidered along the long sides and along one short side called RUIJO, and were used as spreads for the bridal bed. In Tashkent, these embroideries are not called Suzani but GULKURPA, (flower cloth) or PALAK (sky), AI PALA (lunar sky), YULDUZ PALAK (Starry sky)." Now there is an even rarer type which start usually as very nice wedding night spreads and then the center is started to be filled in. I say started because I am unaware of one of these ever being found "finished". I did some time\effort calculations, based on field work done by a Turkish friend of mine, Seref Ozun, and I have concluded that 8-10 months is the most reasonable estimate for one person to fill the center of one of these large spreads with embroidery. It is an easy association to make between the approximately 9 months of work and the arrival of a baby. Blood on the wedding night was considered a must and a baby produced shortly thereafter a most promising sign. The work on these very special suzani tends to be the best of Tashkent work and that makes sense, the girl who does one of these has had years of practice by this point. Here is an image of one of these "first baby Tashkent suzani". I think the degree of ritual is analogous between the Uzbek and Turkomen and the refinement of these ritual weavings and embroideries is also roughly equivalent. Jim Allen

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  02-24-2000 on 02:14 p.m.
Jim, You say that "the girl who does one of these [suzani] has had years of practice by this point". But is this true. At what age was she likely to have been married? 13? 15? 17? And was this sufficiant to acquire the degree of skill to which you refer? Stephen

Subject  :  RE:embroidery training
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  02-24-2000 on 03:49 p.m.
It is my understanding that families would work on the large spreads and one can well imagine the large amounts of plain red embroidery found on so many of these textiles was done by very young girls, maybe ten years old. I imagine not every girl would have the time to work on a filled in wedding night spread. I guess that such a lucky girl might be 16 to 18 years old by this time.

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  02-24-2000 on 04:55 p.m.
This is only of tangential relevance, but in the emir's palace in Bokhara there is a display of some very beautiful suzanis. They were allegedly embroidered by those of the emir's concubines who were no longer busy serving their primary function. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:embroidery
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  02-24-2000 on 09:24 p.m.
I think some rethinking is in order as per ceremonial central Asian embroidery. Firstly it represents the most beautiful and functionally strong textile imaginable using the absolute minimun amount of prescious silk. I have seen enough , many thousands, of these Asian embroideries to know that they express dimensionality in a continuum with other classical Asian design traditions. I am specifically thinking about a type of fine cross stitch Lakai ilgitsch, with geometric patterns ,that has figure ground reversals and even background competition. These rare and fine embroideries are fully dimensional and even playful in their mastery of illusionary depth. I have come to the conclusion that the best silk ceremonial dowry embroideries are on par with the best pile technique dowry weavings. There are fine needles made out of bone or horn and embroidery has no real known beginning. It isn't as durable as pile weavings but it is not confined to villages. In fact the very best embroidery is probably Turkoman with the most naturalistic expressions of the craft being the finely patterned canabis sativa flower tops so common on Tekke chirpis. Now for those of you already groaning I warn you I have five ancient chirpis, yellow,red(one of a kind),and green. I have flower tops with archs atop the flowers and winged birds on top of the archs. The doors of perceeption? I have an ancient looking yellow silk one with the typical five "fingered" leaves of the plant. The use of the plant was described thus in Marco Polo in a quasi related nomadic people. "The women would build a small teepee and inside the hut a small fire was lit ; upon which they would burn the flowers of the cannabis plant,hemp they called it." One can imagine the effect of sitting inside that teepee for half an hour. Now I think I can get a handle on how in the world they did all that mind numbing embroidery, they numbed their minds. Not the picture perhaps you had in your ideal imaginary Turkoman world but I think this is a heck of a lot closer to reality. These people enjoyed their lives, like Indians once did here. I love their embroidery! Jim

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