Turkmen Embroidery (Afghanistan)

Embroidered Turkmen (Ersari) bag from Afghanistan. Embroidered Turkmen (Ersari) bag from Afghanistan.

The Turkmen speak a form of Western Ghuz (Oghuz) Turkic, closely related to the languge spoken in modern Turkey, and which now includes many Arabic and Farsi words. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Turkmen region was divided among Afghanistan, Iran and the former Soviet Union. At the end of the twentieth century, the independent republic of Turkmenistan was founded.

Around 2000, there were about 900,000 Turkmen living in Afghanistan. They are largely concentrated along the Turkmen-Afghan border, in the northwestern Afghan provinces of Faryab and Jowzjan. The main Turkmen groups in Afghanistan are the Ersari, Yomut and Teke. They were minlyknown for their knotted carpets, rthe than their embroidery.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century until the mid-1920s, the basic costume for a Turkmen male consisted of a pair of loose cotton trousers (balaq) and a shirt (kuynek). Over these was worn a tight-sleeved robe (don) of striped silk. These garments were held together at the waist with a sash (qusaq). A man's headgear consisted of a small skullcap (bork), sometimes with a turban or a cylindrical, black sheepskin hat (telpek). This is still the dominant type of dress of the Afghan Turkmen.

During the early twentieth century the basic dress of a Turkmen woman consisted of under trousers (balaq), a dress (kuynek), and a headdress of some kind. In addition, some groups also had a face veil (yasmak), a sash (sal qusaq, bil qusak), an indoor coat of some kind (kabit or kurte), and for outdoor wear, a second coat (chyrpy).

Silk was an important feature of Turkmen dress for both men and women. It was locally produced and often dyed a characteristically red colour. It was decorated with stripes (often in yellow) and with apparently simple woven geometric designs that on closer inspection prove to be more complicated, and with embroidery.

Embroidery in general plays an important role in the lives of many Turkmen women, as a means of showing their creativity and skill. In Turkmenistan itself many modern ateliers, some state owned, specialise in embroidery, which is sold on local and international markets. Across the border in Afghanistan most of the embroidery is for domestic or local use. In general, chain stitch is a feature of Yomut embroidery, sometimes worked in combination with stem stitch outlining the chain stitch areas. The Teke, however, extensively choose lacing stitch with stem stitch (for outlining), back stitch and couching.

The range of embroidery differs slightly in colour range and motifs, although stylised floral and geometric motifs in red are common to all groups. The Teke, for example, tend to use golden yellow or blues as well, with very stylised floral motifs, a common design being the tulip, which represents fertility.

At weddings, sometimes embroidered cotton hangings are used made of cotton. They are embroidered by itinerant male craftsmen.

See also: Turkmen chyrpy from the mid-nineteenth centurya woman's robe from the Turkmen and also the TRC digital exhibition Dressing The Stans: Textiles, Dress and Jewellery from Central Asia (TRC, Leiden, 2017).

Source: PAIVA, Roland, and Bernard DUPAIGNE (1993). Afghan Embroidery, Lahore/Rawalpindi/Karachi: Ferozsons.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 7 June 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 08:44