Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Turkoman and other tribal groups in Central Asia have used specific textile patterns from carpet weaving and embroidery as identity markers for centuries. Under late 19th century Russian rule, these designs were used as decorative elements on publications to represent an exotic, foreign, central Asian identity. In the Soviet period tribal patterns were utilized as formal symbols of Central Asian provincial sub-identities within the Soviet Union. They were incorporated into in architecture, used in theater set design, in painting, as a sort of tribalidentity- prop in every form of visual artistic expression. Similarly, a standardized “national costume” only superficially related to the actual traditional form of clothing was widely used in theater and performance art. Soviet newspapers printed new embroidery designs for traditional dowry embroideries. Carpet weaving became a collective industry, producing not only traditionally composed carpets designed to sell in the wider Soviet market but also integrating European style portraits of heroic figures and events into the woven surfaces. After decades of suppression of traditional industries, a degree of revival was encouraged in the 1950s and 1960s under the rubric of “Folk Art.” Today, although the types of usage do not differ substantially from the Soviet period, traditional textile designs are important symbols of “Our Art” and of a separate central Asian identity within the newly established republics of central Asia.