May 20 – July 27, 2016
Until recently, traditional Central Asian clothing changed little or not at all. The ubiquitous outer robe (called chapan, khalat or don) was worn by by nomadic and settled people of all ages and both genders, and the most widely used fabrics were multi-colored handwoven stripes called bekasab or alacha. From the latter part of the 19th century onwards, inexpensive Russian cotton became very popular, while velvets and ikats were used by those who could afford them. Many were padded with cotton batting and lined with local handwoven cotton or brightly-patterned factory-produced fabric, much of it imported from Russian mills. The edges were commonly finished with decorative trimming that was intended to ward off evil spirits.
With the exception of very young children, boys and girls dressed much the same way as their parents, although a child’s clothing was more likely to have small amulets attached, their magical properties serving as protection from harm and malevolence. The clothes in this exhibition, which all date from the early to late 20th century, have been well used, so they must have preserved because of their memories and associations. Probably made by mothers and grandmothers, they are touching examples of the anonymous and traditional female artistry that has long been abandoned and overlooked by our own culture.
The Douglas Hyde Gallery gratefully acknowledges the help and advice of Susan Meller.