ABU DHABI, UAE, APRIL 6, 2010 – The region’s first comprehensive exhibition of Islamic embroidery, which includes more than 200 rare textiles from the 17th to the 20th century, will be unveiled at a private opening reception on 6 April 2010 with an extraordinary performance by young musicians from Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The performance is part of an ambitious series of programmes coinciding with A Story of Islamic Embroidery in Nomadic and Urban Traditions, the exhibition which is presented under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and is on view in Gallery One at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi from 7 April through 28 July 2010.
// More than a dozen performances, workshops and lectures are scheduled to take place over the course of the next four months, exploring a range of topics, such as the exchange of trade and culture across the Silk Road and beyond, embroidery and women’s distinct connection to the medium, and the practical and ethical considerations relating to the conservation of textiles. Audiences will have the opportunity to hear directly from the curator of the exhibition, ethnologist Isabelle Denamur and the co-authors of the exhibition catalogue, Central Asian art experts Kate Fitz Gibbon and Andrew Hale. Among the other outstanding participants are Medieval art and Islamic art curator Manon Six and Asian art curator Vincent Lefèvre, representing one of Abu Dhabi’s key partner institutions, Agence France-Muséums; textile experts Dr. Jochen Sokoly and Konstantinos Chatziantoniou, from Qatar; the British-born textile conservator Kitty Morris; Dr. Françoise Cousin, former head of the textile department, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France; and Nelly Lama, a distinguished lecturer on the History of Art.
“This exhibition on Islamic embroidery continues our exploration and encouragement of a dialogue between cultures by drawing together artwork and voices of people from around the world” stated His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Tourism Development & Investment CompanyTourism Development & Investment Company. “This is the quality of programming – and the kinds of cultural connections – that will be the hallmark of the Cultural District museums that are taking shape on the shores of Abu Dhabi.”
A special cycle of concerts will also be presented by TDICTDIC in collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, that offer a panoramic perspective on Central Asian music through the lens of the musical world of nomads and sedentary dwellers. In the first performance of the series, Voices of Central Asia: Music of the Steppe, Byambajargal Gombodorj brings her mastery of long song (urtyn duu), in which each syllable of text is extended for a long duration; Ulzhan Baibussynova and Ardak Issataeva illustrate the venerable tradition of the bards – solo performers of oral poetry who typically accompany themselves on a strummed lute with silk or gut strings; and Raushan Orozbaeva, offers a performance on the qyl qobyz, an archaic two-stringed fiddle historically linked to shamanic practices
A Story of Islamic Embroidery in Nomadic and Urban Traditions is presented by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC)Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), the entity behind Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District. The exhibition is part of a rich programme of artistic and educational programming organised by TDICTDIC leading up to the opening of the Cultural District museums. Embroidery and other Arabic traditions will be represented in the collections of the Saadiyat Island museums, including the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, all of which will showcase international arts and the region’s own heritage.
The works on view include embroidered garments and decorative objects dating from the 17th to the 20th century that illuminate how the magnificent tradition of embroidery, carried on by urban, rural and nomadic women, sustained regional, tribal and family identities through its integration in communal activities, and how it evolved through the encounter of different cultures. The Andalusians influenced textile-makers in Morocco; the Ottomans influenced artists in Algeria; and all across Central Asia there was continual interchange among Mongols, Uzbeks, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Turkmen and more.
The types of textiles on view fuelled the bustling trade of the region’s bazaars and filled the packs of camel caravans that traversed the desert from Central Asia to Russia, Turkey and beyond. They defined the wearer’s social status – from the ruler’s magnificent gold-embroidered velvet robes to the labourer’s striped cotton and the nomad’s wool. The creation and use of textiles also marked the most joyous and poignant events of family life, from the rites of birth and marriage to those of burial.
Most of the materials in the exhibition were made by women specifically for their families and for members of their communities. For this reason, the Central Asian examples are particularly compelling, since Islamic identity in these countries was strongly discouraged, or even punished, for many decades, and embroidery gatherings provided women with a rare opportunity for Islamic worship.
The exhibition features textiles from a number of Central Asian tribes, including a fine example of phulkari embroidery, which was made as part of the preparation for marriage, from the former district of Hazara (now the Pakistani North West Frontier Province); an intricately embroidered Turkoman woman’s robe with motifs including latch-hooks, curving ram’s horns, stylised tulip buds and rosettes; long cloth bands used to hold the high piles of bedding of wealthy families, made by the Lakai and Kungrat Uzbek tribes; an embellished saddle cloth, showing the status and social identity of the rider, from Rasht, Iran; and a suzani, a large, bed-cover sized wall hanging that was included in a dowry, densely embroidered with four large bouquets of flowers, common to urban dwellings in Central Asia.
Other notable objects in the exhibition are wall hangings, door hangings, shawls and chest covers from various regions of Morocco in the 17th through 20th centuries, 18th century shawls from Algeria, and silk embroiders from Sindh and the Swat Valley in Pakistan.
A Story of Islamic Embroidery will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue co-written by Isabelle Denamur with Kate Fitz Gibbon, Andrew Hale and Marie France Vevier.