Hazara embroidery (Afghanistan)

Embroidered Hazara purse from Afghanistan, late 20th century (TRC 2009.0445). Embroidered Hazara purse from Afghanistan, late 20th century (TRC 2009.0445).

The Hazaras from central Afghanistan are known for working embroidery on cotton or silk material enlivened by very fine lines of cross or herringbone stitch. Hazara embroidery tends to be a form of counted thread work rather than free style embroidery. It is generally very fine and precize.

There are various types of Hazara embroidery. The Wardak Hazaras, for example, from southwest of the capital Kabul are known for producing multi-coloured, geometric designs in double running stitch (Holbein stitch). The Hazaras from nearby Ghazni, in contrast, often produce designs based on rectangles or squares, which enclose strictly geometric patterns of chequered bands or lozenges. These are usually multi-coloured and worked in silk thread on a cotton ground, using brick stitch or short, satin stitches, with dividing lines worked in black and white double running stitch. Another form of Hazara embroidery includes gold coloured braids, especially on long, velvet waistcoats and dresses.

Hazara embroidery is found, apart from dresses, on a variety of objects, including bags or covers to hold the Koran, purses, belts, napkins and makeup-bags. Especially famous is the embroidery of the Hazara women from Bamiyan in the centre of the country, and from the provinces of Ghazni and Daikundi further to the east and south respectively, where the embroidery shows influences from the nearby Pashtun communities that live in thee ast and south of Afghanistan.

The embroidery on Hazara dresses, in general, is concentrated in several areas, notably the bodice and neck, the sleeves, the skirt front and along the hem of the dress. It covers the complete ground. There are two types of embroidery used for dresses. The term zamin-dozi refers to embroidery that is densely stitched on the fabric of the dress, usually the front chest panel. This type of embroidery is often used for clothing that is worn for festive occasions, such as weddings. The designs on dresses tend to be stylised floral motifs, worked around the bodice, and on the cuffs and hems of the garments. The second form of embroidery is called gul-dozi and consists of stylised floral motifs that meander around the bodice, cuffs and hems of the garments.

Hazara caps are often totally decorated with short, satin stitches worked in rows. Gold coloured threads are often used to further embellish children’s and women’s caps.

Hazara embroidery includes religious themes, including the decoration of the textiles that cover the prayer stone that is used by the (Shi'ite) Hazaras when praying. These embroidered decorations generally show a prayer niche and the two severed hands of Hazrat Abbas, brother of Ali, and both particularly revered by the Shi' ites.

There are also embroidered texts, often invoking Allah or one of the Shi'ite martyrs.

See also the TRC digital exhibition Dressing The Stans: Textiles, Dress and Jewellery from Central Asia (TRC, Leiden, 2017).

SourceS: PAIVA, Roland, and Bernard DUPAIGNE (1993). Afghan Embroidery, Lahore/Rawalpindi/Karachi: Ferozsons, and Gillian VOGELSANG and Willem VOGELSANG, Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian Subcontinent. London: Bloomsbury Publishing 2021, pp. 190-224.

TRC online catalogue (retrieved 26th August 2018)


Last modified on Monday, 17 May 2021 17:10
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