TM’s 2010 Symposium, Tying the Rainbow: Re-examining Central Asian Ikats

Category: Exhibitions

by Valerie Justin.

Sunday October 17th

Curator Sumru Krody led a tour of the Exhibition Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats as part of the Textile Museum’s 2010 Symposium in Washington, DC. The exhibit is a dazzling display of these vibrantly colored, intricately (resist) dyed robes and wearing garments along with panels of silk and cotton. These 70 items were donated to the Museum by collector Murad Megalli, chosen from his donation of 148 robes and panels. The front closing robes are lined with colorful Russian cotton with ikat or printed facing. The large central gallery juxtaposes colors and designs with great drama and intelligence as does the catalogue which includes images of the entire Megalli Collection. The catalogue is available from the Textile Museum.

Curator Sumru Krody
Ikat robe

TM’s signature Sunday’s Show and Tell, as always m.c.’d by Michael Seidman, followed. A walk-around parade by at least 50 attendees garbed in striking ikat coats and robes of broad range in color, design and age from early19th century to recent revival production. Added to the ikats in the Exhibit, when have so many powerful garments been together in our time? Informal identifications were made as to origin (Bukhara, Tashkent, Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan, and Sinjiang in Western China), materials and age – these comments were made with fine expertise by experts Jeff Spur, Mehmet Cetinkaya, Gail Martin and Andy Hale.

Elizabeth and David Reisbord
Danny Shaffer before receiving his McMullan RedRibbon Medal
Some members of the Joseph W. McMullan Foundation.

Saturday October 16th

The annual Textile Museum Symposium lectures were delivered on Saturday, October 16th by presenters from the United States, Canada and Russia.

Andrew Hale placed the designs of 19th century ikats within the Central Asian aesthetic. He drew from his extensive archive of photographs ( to show how ikat patterns in both urban and nomadic style related to nomadic carpet designs as well as to urban textile production. He demonstrated the similarities between the assemblage of strips used in Ghujeries (nomadic carpets) and the manner of ikat production. The 19th and early 20thc photographs were also fascinating human documents revealing the use and function of the garments as social statements and historic documents.

Speaker Andy Hale

Mary Dusenbury, a research curator from University of Kansas, presented a close up look at recent revival production of Central Asian Ikat now flourishing after a fallow period during Soviet rule. She used her studies in the Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan with 4th and 5th generation weavers to demonstrate the intricacies of ikat weaving with its wide span of specialties – some pieces passing through thirty or more hands in as many tiny specialized household workshops. For some of uswatching the arduous process of nurturing silk worm cocoons into fiber explains the historic secrecy maintained to guard silk production around the world.

Speaker Mary Dusenbury

Other panelists showed the importance of textiles as marks of identity against imperial rule, and as marks of identity in their own communities. During the Soviet period textile production was mechanized; the handcrafts were not honored .The current revival of Ikat production in Uzbekistan and Sinjiang (W. China) hasbeen brought about by several small projects motivating small entrepreneurs, now becoming more broadspread – reaching a large public. Now some brilliant Ikat use in contemporary fashion and global furnishings has spawned new mechanized production but has more importantly reestablished Central Asian’s own nowflourishing hand industry.

Valerie Justin, Sag Harbor, New York. October 18th, 2010 –

Find books by Valerie Justin, Sumru Belger Krody, Daniel Shaffer, Andrew Hale, Mary Dusenbury,

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