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Clouds, Power and Ornament – Roving Central Asia

Ikat , felt, suzani, syrmak . . . All these traditional materials and technique along with their unique styles and ornaments make up the distinctive textile culture of Central Asia. Age-old textile practices permeate the political economy and serve as a medium for social life. Even in the current era of information technology, textile production is a deeply rooted part of many Central Asian peoples’ daily lives. Contemporary artists from this region also often use this textile culture for inspiration and as creative material to respond to political and social transformation, raising discussions around the preservation of traditions, the circulation of collective memory and how textiles can encourage unity within a community.

This exhibition takes textiles and crafts as the starting point for an in-depth exploration of this vast interconnected territory with its multi-layered politics, societies and cultures. The exhibition has two parts: Clouds and Power  co-curated by Slavs and Tatars and You Mi, and Suture: Reimagining Ornament  curated by Alexandra Tsay. The first part uses traditional ikat  as a metaphor to present the intricacies of Central Asia’s political and social landscape. The ‘bazaar-like’ exhibition design also paints a group portrait of Central Asian contemporary art. The second part focuses on Central Asian traditional ornamentation, exploring it as a language that both reflects and shapes politics, society and culture. Its focus on Central Asian female artists also reveals important powers that have been concealed by mainstream narratives.

Broadly speaking, Central Asia extends from the Caspian Sea in the west, to the borders of China and Mongolia in the east, Afghanistan and Iran in the south, and Southern Russia in the north. It includes the 5 former Soviet countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Geographically linking East and West through ancient Silk Road trade routes, the area is where various empires and political powers converge and compete, giving rise to different periods of social transformation. Likewise, this region has experienced frequent exchange and integration of commodities, people groups, religions and cultures for thousands of years. Even today, as international relations and the global economy face new rounds of competition and challenges, Central Asia remains at the forefront of conflicts and scrutiny. Exploring Central Asia will help us break through the limitations of binary opposition to uncover more fluid ways of thinking about complexity and contradiction and learn the ways and wisdom of coexistence in diversity.

Please refer to Special Arrangements for the latest access and entry requirements.

Exhibition participants:

Umida Akhmedova
Askhat Akhmedyarov
Alibay Bapanov
Saule Bapanova
Medina Bazargali
Nazzy Beglari
Lidiya Blinova
Bakhyt Bubikanova
Marat Dilman
Saule Dyussenbina
Aziz Hazara
Dana Iskakova (CA Research Group)
Aida Issakhankyzy (CA Research Group)
Aisha Jandosova (CA Research Group)
Asel Kadyrkhanova
Dilyara Kaipova
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev
Kubra Khademi
Jazgul Madazimova
Gulnur Mukazhanova
Nazilya Nagimova
Furqat Palvan-Zade
Lena Pozdnyakova (CA Research Group)
Anna Pronina (CA Research Group)
Aziza Shadenova
Yelena Vorobyova
Yang Yeung (CA Research Group)
Guzel Zakir
Madina Zholdybekova
The Central State Archive of Film, Photo Documents, and Sound Recording of the Republic of Kazakhstan




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Date: 26-30.03.2024
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