EMBROIDERY OF THE PLAIN DISTRICTS
Suzaneh. Suzaneh is one of the typical big embroideries produced in Tajikistan. We can say that it occupies a place of honor not simply as a decoration of the house, but in the life of the people, being the pride of its art. An extraordinary diversity of ornament, harmony of proportions, the beauty and elegance of details as well as a high perfection of the decorative design - all this fascinates the spectator making him wonder at the magic power of the human hand. Suzaneh, the biggest of the embroidered artic-les (200 X 300, 300 X 400,500 X 400cm), artistically is not inferior to the best car-pet. It is made on karbos, satinette or silk, almost always is lined and is edged with a strip of black cloth or braid. Most often it has a closed composition with a single big rosette covering a greater part of the cloth, or a scheme with 6-9 rosettes arranged in a strictly symmetrical order. Besides rosettes there are motifs of various bushes. They are widespread in embroideries of Leninabad (Khujand) Isfara, Samarkand, Bukhara and Kanibadam. No suzaneh composition is complete without a broad colorful edging.
Like other embroideries, suzanehs have many local peculiarities of pattern, technique and coloring in different districts of Tajikistan. The Ura-Tubeh suzanehs, ranking among the best in the Republic, attract attention by their original beauty. A well-proportioned design possesses a special monumental quality. The combination of colors with many sharp contrasts simply dazzles you by its brightness. Here one can distinguish two types of work: the old pieces embroidered in a dense compact stitch (they are becoming rare) and more re-cent works with a large-scale laconic pattern.
There is a great difference between the large pattern of the Ura-Tubeh suzanesh and the light open-work compositions of Leninabad (Khujand), Kanibadam, Isfara and Asht. Not so monumental as the suzanehs of Ura-Tubeh, they please the eye by the variety and elegance of their small ornaments, evenly arranged all over the cloth. The main motifs are floral patterns of various colors and form combined into fantastic bushes and bunches. These bushes and bunches are the principal compositional elements of suzaneh. Like the rosettes, they are arranged in a strict rhythmical order, 10, 8 or 6 pieces in each embroidery. Sometimes the artists scatter twigs or flower rosettes among them, but in many instances simply embroider several separate bushes (6-9) without any additional ornamentation. Such compositions have their "top" and "bottom". Usually they create an impression of peace and stability. Joyous playful motifs are rife in Leninabad (Khujand) suzanehs. Small openwork rosettes are scattered about a huge (300 <400 cm) black field; one bigger rosette is placed in the centre. The rosettes vary not only in the inner ornamental structure but also in size. This helps to create a perspective: the embroidery resembles the starry sky in the night. Each of the stars is densely set with small ornamental patterns of yellow, white, violet and green. Optically the colors blend and one gets an impression of seeing brightly twinkling stars. The Nurek suzanehs are an interesting sight to see. Being, as it were, subject to dual influence, they bear resemblance to embroideries of the mountains and at the same time follow the line of those produced in the plain districts, differing from them by a more profuse general decor. Tiny elegant flowers and leaves scattered evenly all about the field in some places are gathered into small rosettes and branches. The corners of this closed composition are filled by four similar bushes of symmetrical design. The predominant color is red. It is often used as the background and different shades are widely introduced into the embroidery. The general impression given by Nurek suzanehs is like that of a mosaic panneau where all the details blend into one bright gamut of colors. The ancient ornamental motifs are common in Samarkand suzanehs. Their large-scale laconic pattern resembles that of Ura-Tubeh works. The main motif here is again one or several multiple rosettes varying in form and framed by a solid leafy stalk. This motif is repeated in many variations making one wonder at the prolific imagination of the artists. Contrasting colors (yellow with blue, violet, crimson, red with black, yellow, rose with blue) create a rich mellow gamut also resembling Ura-Tubeh embroideries. In Samarkand works the contrasts are further emphasized by a thin contour made in crochet around each element of the pattern (in yellow or another light tone). Very beautiful are suzanehs in which luxurious shrubs are arranged symmetrically in several rows. But in Samarkand embroideries they are grouped quite differently from those in Leninabad (Khujand), Isfara and Kanibadam works. The Samarkand artists imbue their blossoming shrubs with vigor and force. Their general outline is similar to that of the rosettes but detalization is different. Succulent stalks and leaves plastically wind round flower pistils of various shapes. A contrast to the rich compositions of Samarkand suzanehs reminiscent of the native fields and orchards are Pendjikent ornaments. The big rosettes are surrounded by numerous other rosettes of different size, but of the same color. Their inner ornament has a comparatively simple structure. In most cases the field is divided by several concentric star-like figures. In the exquisite color combinations of these suzanehs there are tones which are rarely found in Tajik embroidery: brown, gray, pale rose.
The varied and rich suzanehs of Bukhara are famed for their luxurious, artistically arranged floral ornament and virtuosity of technique. Embroidery is usually made with silk threads which by their luster and play accentuate its remarkable polychrome and show very subtle transitions of tones. Their schemes are also quite diverse, though they mostly consist of the traditional rosettes and bushes. There are also works where the whole field is covered by a rhombic net with a floral design in each opening. These motifs in Bukhara embroideries are represented in a great number of modifications.
Sometimes the figures appear as serrate or radial stars, sometimes they form soft rounded palmettes with a highly varied inner structure. The plant stems or shrubs, brittle and tender, with numerous little flowers, buds and leaves, wind so closely and freely round the main ornamental patterns, that looking at this picture you involuntarily believe in its reality, and almost expect to hear the singing of birds and smell the aroma of live flowers.
The coloring serves to emphasize the fine, openwork structure of ornament. In no other Tajik embroideries can yon find such tender and varied combinations of gray with blue, lilac with rose, pale yellow with ochre, white with light orange.
These subtle combinations always inter-change with crimson, green, red and dark blue, giving an illusory impression that the coloring is softer than it really is. The old Bukhara production (the 19-th century) was famous for its gold embroidery showing an amazing play of colors. The general golden tone of these works with streaks of blue, green, rose, red and violet makes the material look richer. Especially effective is gold embroidery on velvet and close silk. The foregoing descriptions give an idea of the main ornamental schools existing in the Republic. They show that all these embroideries have affinities in the principal techniques, decorative schemes, ornamental patterns and motifs, the use of line and color. But it is also quite evident that they all have differences in coloring of the pattern, in the scale and proportions of ornament.
Borpush. Besides the widely popular form of suzaneh, the plain districts produce many other kinds of big and small embroidery. Each of them has its own artistic peculiarities.
They are all smaller than suzaneh (200x200x.200x150,100x300 cm) but in diversity of pattern and coloring some of them even surpass it. Their composition also consists of the central field and the edging. In borpushes the com-position usually includes a large floral or geometrical design in the centre and ornamentation in the corners. There are also schemes where the central field is covered by several symmetrically arranged patterns. These compositions form the basis for numerous variants with different design and coloring. In their general ornamental structure borpushes usually show a strong resemblance to suzanehs. Л special sort of borpushes, with remarkable ornament, is produced in Ura-Tnbeh. Their makers skillfully utilize decorative patches, a technique typical of the Ura-Tubeh school.
The motifs in the Ura-Tubeh borpuslies are natural phenomena, heavenly bodies, especially the sun. The sun's disk is composed of several rings from which at regular intervals go divergent zigzag tongues of flame. The rose, red, yellow, crimson and white zigzags create a picture full of color and motion. This realistic depiction of the sun's disk is undoubtedly connected with the old popular rituals and beliefs. It can only be found in borpushes of Ura-Tubeh. The sun is a favourite motif of all Ta-djik embroidery. It passes through the history of the art, gradually losing its religious significance. In our days it appears in the form of yak lola (lola stands for a tulip) - a single flower, a bigger or smaller rosette richly adorned by floral ornament. Being one of the basic elements of embroidery in all parts of Tajikistan, this rosette (or circle) has specific features in each district. The motif so widely used by Tajik emroidresses and other handicraftsmen is of a very old origin. It was traced back to the 7-8th-century Sogdian art.
Djoinamoz. Very common in the northern territories of the Republic are djoinamozes, prayer-rugs used to kneel on when saying prayers. Their composition (they are shaped like - with the pointed upper part) imitates mekhrob - a niche in an inner wall of a mosque indicating the direction to Mecca. By their ornamentation djoinamozes resemble suzanehs, borpushes and ruidjoes. In some cases it is fine open-work with a great variety of floral forms and tiny leaves. Such djoinamozes are produced in Bukhara. Their ornament may include dozens of original carpet patterns and an infinite number of variants. Examples of a different kind can be found in the Samarkand, Ura-Tubeh and Pendjikent production. Here the pattern is bright, boldly outlined, consisting of separate harmoniously arranged forms. Generally the ornament of djoinamoz is characterized by simplicity and intimacy. It is only natural in a thing used in the moments of prayer and meditation. Among the patterns forming the figure of a niche one can often see such symbolic elements as a pomegranate (anor) the symbol of happiness and fertility; various kinds of worms and centipedes, believed to be helpful in the fulfillment of one's wishes; a snake, the horns of a billy-goat. The emblem of hospitality - a tea-pot and a samovar has originated already in the Soviet time.
Kars. Kars is a sort of cover for a bed or a pile of blankets. Embroidery on karses is rare. A piece of cloth used as a kars can be up to 3.5 metres long and 150-170 cm wide. Only the two opposite ends of the cloth are embroidered, usually to the width of about 1.5 metres. Each end is embroidered on both sides. A finished kars is folded across so that both embroidered ends were on one side, one end slightly overlapping the other. In some cases they embroider only one end. The central field has no ornamentation, but the border is adorned profusely. Its pattern in all cases is trim-med on the outside by a double ribbon, straight or wavy, which is a traditional feature of all Tajik embroideries. The main elements of these embroideries are floral designs.
Ruidjo. There is hardly a single popular rite that passes without an embroidered ruidjo, a traditional Tajik bedspread. In the nuptial ceremony, it is solemnly laid on the bride-bed. This kind of embroidery is common in all plain districts of Tajikistan. It has an austere composition (in the form of П) and a size of 200x130 cm or 170x120 cm. The patterns are trimmed on both sides by a double ribbon. The ornamentation is mostly composed of floral designs, but they are represented in a countless number of variants. Small flowers, leaves and stalks of all sorts are gathered in sumptuous bushes and bunches which are interchanged with big and small rosettes and supplemented by scattered single flowers which give the design an aspect of light open-work.
This type of embroidery is especially widespread in Kanibadam, Isfara, Leninabad (KHUJAND) and Asht. Here a ruidjo some-times includes so many different ornamental forms that you may think they have been gathered from all kinds of embroidered works and mixed in one graceful ornament.