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Encyclopaedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and South Asia

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The TRC is embarking on a new large-scale and very exciting project. Following the publication in February this year of the 688-page Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, a new contract has just been signed with Bloomsbury Academic in London to publish an equally beautifully illustrated and highly informative successor volume, namely an encyclopaedia of embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau (Iran and Afghanistan) and South Asia. The volume will be edited by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, and Willem Vogelsang, dept. director of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden. Use will be made of the extensive TRC collection of textiles and garments from that part of the world. 

Counted thread embroidery from among the Hazaras, Afghanistan. TRC 2008.0236.

Counted thread embroidery from among the Hazaras, Afghanistan. TRC 2008.0236.

Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian subcontinent have throughout history been in close contact. For millennia, people from Central Asia have migrated from the north towards what is now known as Iran and Afghanistan, and hence they often moved either west, towards modern Turkey, or east towards the Indian subcontinent. Others, be they nomads, pilgrims, tradesmen or soldiers, moved directly from east to west and from west to east. This is the story of the Indo-Iranians, the Scythians, the Turks, the Uzbeks, Sufi saints and itinerant craftsmen. In addition, all of this part of the world has in recent centuries felt the pressures from further away, from Russia, Europe, China.

As a result of all these circumstances, the peoples from all of these regions share many common features, which are also found in the regional arts and crafts, such as in the immensely rich heritage in embroidery. For hundreds of years, men and women in Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian subcontinent have been producing embroidery to decorate themselves, their families, clients, homes and public spaces. Embroidery is an expression of personal, family, as well as regional, artistic creativity. Embroidery has thus played an important role in the social and cultural lives of people from this region. It reflects economic and political changes across the region, and the social, cultural and artistic backgrounds of the local groups in question, whether they are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Zoroastrian/Parsi.

Objects that are discussed and illustrated in this book come from throughout the regions in question. Although the emphasis is on the wide range of embroidered garments and accessories for men, women and children, examples of decorated soft furnishings such as cushions, bed linen, curtains, floor coverings and wall hangings will also be included.

If you have any examples of embroidery from the region, and willing to donate it to the TRC to be possibly included in the Encyclopaedia, please get into contact with us. The manuscript of the new Encyclopaedia is due by the end of December 2017.

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