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Turkmen Textiles

Drawn from a private collection, this exhibition celebrates one of the great textile traditions of Central Asia: the knotted-pile weavings of the Turkmen people. The term Turkmen encompasses numerous nomadic and seminomadic tribal groups, each with its own distinctive identity, whose homelands encompass modern Turkmenistan, as well as parts of Iran and Afghanistan.

These textiles served a variety of functional purposes suitable to a pastoral lifestyle: as carpets, tent hangings, coverings, storage bags, and camel trappings. While distinctive design patterns are associated with each particular tribal group, common features shared by Turkmen textiles include geometric designs based on a medallion-like motif known as gul, literally “flower,” and a palette dominated by rich reds and browns.

In traditional Turkmen societies, weaving is an art practiced by women who have learned the basic patterns associated with their tribe and who then execute the intricate designs by memory. Young Turkmen girls learn to weave at an early age so they can assist the other female members of the family in preparing the textiles that will comprise their bridal dowries. Indeed, some of the textile types, such as camel trappings, were made specifically for use in the wedding procession.

Ellen Avril
Chief Curator and Curator of Asian Art