Dressing The Stans

Hunter's cloth from the Herat region, Afghanistan, mid-20th century. Hunter's cloth from the Herat region, Afghanistan, mid-20th century. TRC 2016.1773.

9. Painted and printed textiles

A range of painted and printed textiles have been used in Central Asia for centuries. These include hand painted hunting scenes as well as block printed and roller printed textiles produced locally or imported from neighbouring countries.


An ancient method of decorating textiles was to paint a design on them, either with fingers, sticks or brushes. By the 20th century, few textiles were being decorated in this manner, but one of the most intriguing are the hunting cloths associated with northern Afghanistan. These cloths (locally called chireh) come in various forms, but the most characteristic are the painted hoods that represent an animal (often a leopard) and squares of material with the representations of the various creatures that used to be hunted in the region. These include birds (often partridges) and animals. These painted textiles were designed to make the hunter one with his pray and the surrounding environment.

Woman's head covering from Uzbekistan, with printed and resist-dyed decoration. Late 20th century. TRC 2016.1836. For more information, click on the illustration.Printed

Until the 19th century, many of the printed textiles used in Central Asia were either locally produced or imported from India or Iran. In all cases these were made using wooden blocks. In the 19th century, the situation changed considerably as more and more imported textiles from Europe appeared on the market and these were made by block printing, screen printing and later by roller printing machines.

By the early 20th century, the dominant exporter of printed textiles to Central Asia was Russia and this country continued to satisfy the need for printed textiles until the beginning of the 21st century. Russian textiles have a characteristic red background (although there are some exceptions) with large stylised floral motifs or geometric designs. Sometimes Soviet period propaganda, such as the hammer and sickle or red stars, also appear on the printed textiles.

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