TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Summary and Recap
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-10-2000 on 09:17 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu In the essay with which I introduced the topic of Turkmen pentagonal weavings, I raised six questions: 1. What relationship, if any, is there between the lattice of Tekke bird and Yomud ashik asmalyks? There was no groundswell of support for the notion that these are related, and the consensus seems to be that the evidence for such a relationship is too superficial to be persuasive. 2. Is there any evidence for the existence of pentagonal bags larger than comb bags? None of our readers seems to know of any, at least not of Turkmen origin. This makes it pretty unlikely that such things existed. Even the so-called comb bag is probably more accurately described as a comb cover, since it goes over a comb and protects the comb's teeth or, perhaps, protects the tent occupants from them. Some nice images of comb covers as well as of a comb were put up by Soren Neergaard. Some of us were unaware of (or misinformed about) the type of comb on which these covers, were used, and were particularly enlightened by this aspect of the discussion. 3. The asmalyks were clearly used in wedding processions. Were they used on other occasions as well? A discussion of this matter was carried over from the previous Salon to this one. There is so little documentation of the occasions on which Turkmen had processions that the question is essentially unanswerable. However, it seems unlikely that weddings were the only such events and in the absence of evidence to the contrary it seems reasonable to suppose that decorating the animals with asmalyks would have been part of these. 4. Is there any significance to the pentagonal form? Speculation on this ranged fairly widely, and included suggestions that it represented the silhouette of a yurt, mirrored the form of the camel hump, was related to a mihrab, or was derived from a sort of armor that protected camels. None of these progressed beyond the stage of being speculations thrown out for consideration. 5. Why are there so few examples of pentagonal trappings made by groups other than the Tekke and Yomud? No answer to this question was even suggested, although it did precipitate mention of pentagonal trappings that were made by Uzbeks and by Indians of the Pacific northwest in North America. There was some speculation that the form was brought from central Asia to these Indians, as well as that the adoption of the form by the Tekke was a result of the fact that the Salor trappings were rectangular. Neither seemed supported by much information. The migration of the pentagon from central Asia to North America's Pacific coast, it was argued, is plausible. This doesn't seem to me to be much of a foundation for accepting it as true. The thought that Tekke used pentagons because the Salor used rectangles was without any supporting information at all. 6. Why did the Tekke stop making bird asmalyks by the mid-19th century? Or, did they? This question generated no responses. The bulk of the discussion revolved around the issue of truth testing, or how we know what we think we know (about Turkmen textiles or anything else). It generated, in my opinion, much more heat than light. There appeared to be two schools of thought among the readers. One, that it is possible to project oneself into the mind of, say, a Turkmen tribesperson by sufficient study and effort, provided a person is endowed with the right mental equipment. Those who have accomplished this, the thinking goes, are the best and most reliable sources of information and understanding of virtually any aspect of Turkmen culture. The process, said to be based on the teachings of 18th century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, is a form of inductive reasoning. The opposing school of thought held to the position that this is a form of fantasizing and warrrants no more credibility than most fantasy. While acknowledging the experiences and emotional percepts that art can elicit, especially in other artists, they insist that only from reliable sources of information external to the individual can any process of reasoning, inductive or deductive, lead to new understandings. I subscribe to this school, although I would emphasize that this is not proof that it is correct. I mention this simply to alert the reader to the point of view held by the person who wrote what he/she is reading. To all who participated and contributed to the discussion: my sincere thanks for helping me to learn some new things and to clarify my thinking about some that I already knew. To those who followed the discussion without actively participating, I hope it was pleasant and, especially, that it has helped you to appreciate the arts of the weaver a little more. Steve Price --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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