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Uzbek suzani

"The suzani - from the Persian word csuzay meaning needle - hung among many in the Bukharan Emir's summer palace. Peacocks had once roamed the palace gardens while the Emir watched his harem frolic naked in an outdoor pool. This particular suzani, produced in the Nurata oasis, contained a solid burst of colour and embroidery emanating from a central medallion and surrounded by curling fronds and blooms of lotus and peony blossoms. For the casual observer, the piece was impressive though purely decorative, but there was more to it. Samovar and teapot motifs, representing hospitality, radiated like spokes from the medallion centre, as did water jugs, representing purity. Abstract birds flitted around the border, able to cross over from the spirit world. Rows of ram-horn motifs - potent symbols of strength - were embroidered to ward off the evil eye. There were other motifs - their original meaning lost. More recognisable were the peacock-feather eyes embroidered in each corner. These were particularly apt, for like the feathers of a peacock, the beauty of this suzani was also designed to attract a mate. An anonymous embroiderer - a sequestered beauty of fifteen or sixteen - had lovingly worked on this piece. No suitor would ever glimpse her beauty; this privilege was reserved for the wedding night. Instead, potential husbands would content themselves with the beauty of the suzani. A glance was enough for a young man to ascertain that this was the work of a well-bred young lady - her time devoted to embroidery, not menial household chores. The intricacy of her stitches spoke of patience, the ambitious size spoke of endurance, and the symbols within promised a wife pure, hospitable, spiritual and hard-working - qualities eagerly sought after in young women and often sadly lacking in the suitors themselves. The sheer number and quality of suzanis in the young girl's bridal trousseau reminded any potential match that they were marrying into an extended family of useful connections. It was impossible for one embroiderer to complete an entire trousseau, so an army of female relatives were enlisted. First, our embroiderer's grandmother - as tradition demanded - drew out the design. The strips of loosely stitched cotton were then pulled apart and parcelled out. Each woman stitched with a different tension and the reassembled suzani often contained mismatched colours and disjointed patterns along the seams. There were other imperfections too; a suzani was never finished - a leaf or flower left untouched - for completion meant the embroiderer could now depart this life. Also, attempts at perfection might rouse jealousy in the evil eye or even the Almighty himself, for surely God alone is perfect. Despite the help of female relatives, a trousseau still took many months - if not years - to complete. It included larger suzanis for wall hangings, a lavish suzani for the bridal bed, a suzani prayer- mat - an archway facing Mecca. Smaller suzanis were made for wrapping stacks of freshly-baked bread and gifts, larger ones for food cloths, and a special cradle-covering - rich in symbols to ward away evil - in hopeful anticipation of many children. Had this particular suzani wooed a good husband, or was it squirrelled away by a bitter and disillusioned kelin - a painful memory of her embroidered hopes and dreams?"

Christopher Aslan Alexander "A Carpet Ride to Khiva" 2010

Suzani (Suzanne) is a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile made in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. The art of making such textiles in Iran is called Suzankari (needlework).

Suzanis usually have a cotton (sometimes silk) fabric base, which is embroidered in silk or cotton thread. Chain, satin, and buttonhole stitches are the primary stitches used. There is also extensive use of couching, in which decorative thread laid on the fabric as a raised line is stitched in place with a second thread. Though suzanis can be sewn onto a single piece of fabric (usually cotton), it is not uncommon for several pieces to be stitched together into an elaborate patchwork. Suzanne is an embroidered piece of cloth used as a wall decoration. The biggest Uzbek Suzannes are 2-3 meters long, and up to 2 meters wide.

The patterns of embroidery were created by artists who placed them with a sharpened straw called a "kalam". The artists knew many different styles of ornamentation, and varied them to create new combinations, with carefully chosen colors.

Uzbek Suzanne may be said to be the national art form, having its own style, developed over the centuries. In the 19th century, Nurata, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Tashkent and Fergana became centers of artistic embroidery. Every school of embroidery has its own local traits.

While becoming familiar with Uzbek Suzannes it is impossible to find two pieces alike, in spite of the similar patterns and colors. The variety of ornamentations and their combinations is what the art of Suzanne is based on.

Popular design motifs include sun and moon disks, flowers (especially tulips, carnations, and irises), leaves and vines, fruits (especially pomegranates), and occasional fish and birds. The designs often also take on symbolic properties: monochrome designs may represent life and death, the individual and the world, and so on. Representations of living things such as fish and birds do sometimes appear, though they are less common due to the widely held belief amongst Muslims that they should not be depicted in art.

The three main stitches used in embroidering suzanis are chain, buttonhole and satin stitches. Then, as now, they were made by young women for inclusion in their wedding dowries and were presented to the groom on the wedding day. Suzanis for use as bedspreads, wall hangings and throws were therefore particularly common.

The oldest surviving suzanis are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it seems likely that they were in use long before that. The production of suzanis undoubtedly took place before this, however, as Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, the Castillan ambassador to the Timurid court, described the fine embroidery work he saw in the 15th century, and there are definite similarities between 18th-century suzanis and the embroideries produced in Mughal India two centuries beforehand. The Mughals, of course, were Timurids, their founder Babur a native of the Fergana Valley.

Suzani in Bukhara

You should definetely visit Vabkent town, house of craftswoman Matluba Khatamova in Bukhara if you are interested with Uzbek suzani (suzanne) textiles. Currently her business is Bukharian Suzanne production. Since long ago, the previous generations of her family have been involved in this business, which to the present day has been developed and sustained successfully.

The average period of work on one Suzanne is two months, which makes every piece exclusive. All the materials used for Suzanne are natural, colored with natural dyes, which gives a bright and unforgettable look to every piece. Extremely rich in color and original in ornamentation, it is a wonderful decoration for any house.

Beginning last century, this family of embroiderers and weavers offered their works for sale in shops; now, the Suzanne of Matluba is not sold in artisan and souvenir shops, as it is considered to be unique, and is being sold abroad, with orders for her Suzanne being received from many different countries.

You also can request our tour operators to add her house to your itinerary plan!