ART, CLOTHES AND GOLD TEETH IN TAJIKISTAN

ART AND ARCHITECTURE IN TAJIKISTAN

Fabric printing and textile weaving are among the most predominant handicrafts in Tajikistan. The range of woven fabrics is tremendous; brocade, alocha, zandona, bekasam, shokhi-kamus - in cotton, silk and wool, brightly dyed, elaborately embroidered or printed with the arbandy technique. Artistic embroidery finds its way onto wall hangings and carpets as well as silk headdresses. Decorative carving of both stone and wood is evident everywhere, from everyday household objects to architectural features on mosques and monuments. Intricate geometric and floral patterns are most popular.

The great epic of Firdowsi, Shahname, influenced all genres, including painting, carpet making, and commemorative and graphic art. The trend in modern art has been to recreate the philosophical thought of the earlier civilization in order to bring about a cultural revival. This theme can be seen in all genres, including stage decoration. [Source: Everyculture.com]

Architectural decoration ( gach kari), carpet weaving, metal decorations, embroidery and calligraphy Archaeological excavations near the city of Penjikent revealed beautiful monumental paintings, sculptures dated to the A.D. 7th and 8th centuries. [Source: advantour.com]

During the Soviet era, a purely functional architectural style developed in the form of centrally planned development projects, government office buildings, and cultural facilities. More recent architecture emphasizes the revival of the Samanid and Timurid periods. During the Samanid period, baked brick was used in the construction of mosques, minarets, and mausoleums; calligraphic inscriptions were used to decorate walls. In the fourteenth century, the Timurids introduced the use of mosaic tile. [Source: Everyculture.com]

Clothes and Hats in Tajikistan

Tajik traditional clothes differ from region to region in terms of color, embroidered patterns, and styles. But there are some common features in every national costume. Because of the cold climate of the Pamir Plateau, the garments of Tajiks are mainly cotton-padded. Men have traditionally worn a tunic-type shirt, wide trousers, a quilted dressing gown, a waist scarf, a skull-cap or a turban, leather boots, and galoshes with pointed toes (which are frequently worn over boots. Women traditionally wore a tunic-type dress, wide trousers, a kerchief or a skull-cap. You are more likely to see traditional styles of clothes in rural areas than in the cities. [Source: advantour.com]

The toki –– or kallapush (skull cap) — is a traditional part of the national Tajik costume. The most popular are “chusti”, men’s black and white skull caps with bodoms (almond) or kalamfurs (capsicum) embroidered with white silk. Light semi-spherical, machine-embroidered skull caps –– arakhchin — are also seen in many areas of Tajikistan. There are several traditional types of composition and ornamental patterns for them. Women’s square skull caps with bright “florinated” patterns embroidered with cross stitch are widely seen. Tajik round flat-bottomed skull caps embroidered with satin stitch with colored silk sowings are also known in Pamir. [Source: advantour.com]

Men have traditionally worn heavy quilted coats ( chapan), tied with a sash that traditionally held a dagger, knee-length boots, and black embroidered cap ( tupi). In the winter they sometimes wear fur hats. The rumol is men’s cotton waist kerchief, decorated with designs of various colors embroidered with basma stitches or double-sided satin stitches. Patterns of plants and flowers resembling Arab script predominate. Men's caps look like small barrels, and are lined with black lamb skin. The lower brim is rolled up revealing the fur lining, which is both decorative and practical. [Source: advantour.com]

Women have traditionally worn tunic-like dresses ( kurta), featuring an array bright iridescent colors and psychedelic patterns, baggy stripped trousers ( izor), and headscarves ( rumol) that match their dresses. Women often wear brightly-colored slippers and embroidered pillbox hats fringed and veiled with jewelry made from silver and coral beads. Some of the clothes resemble those worn by Uzbeks. Women wear bright-colored clothes and favor long skirts. When going outdoors, they wear kerchiefs, older women wearing white and younger ones yellow or green. Girls and women wear skullcaps and scarves mostly for various occasions (weddings, birthdays). National jewelry is mostly made of silver. Necklaces, pendants, earrings and rings can be quite massive, forged and embossed with different designs. [Source: advantour.com]

Pamir Tajik Clothes

Pamiri Tajik are mainly dress in cotton-padded clothes and vests, with a little difference for the four seasons, because of the very cold and highland climate conditions of the Pamirs. The clothing and decorations of the Tajik herdsmen, who live in the Pamirs, has been described as "the colored clouds on the roof of the world". Both men and women wear felt stockings, long soft sheepskin boots with yak skin soles, which, light and durable, are suitable for walking mountain paths. Women are deeply fond of dressing themselves up, and their accessories and styles vary according to ages and marital status. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, kepu.net.cn ~; China.org china.org *|*]

Traditionally-dressed Tajik men wear a black or blue long coat with no collar and with buttons down the front outside a white shirt. They wear a belt around the waist, with a knife hanging on the right side along with long-leg boots made of male goatskin. Men sometimes add sheepskin overcoats over their coats in cold weather. For headgear they wear a round rolling-hem high hat with black lamb's skin as lining and black velveteen decorated with lines of embroidery on the outside. The flaps can be turned down to protect ears and cheeks from wind and snow. They have traditionally worn these clothes when they rode their fine horses between the pastures and snowy mountains under blue sky and white clouds of the Pamir region.~ *|*

Tajik Women wear dresses. Married women wear back aprons, and their embroidered cotton-padded hats also have back flaps. Women usually tie a white square towel on top of their hats when they go out, but brides like red ones. The dresses worn by Tajik women are bright-colored and full of charm. They generally like wearing red or multicolored dresses embroidered with lace, with a black flannel vest or sleeveless garment outside it. They wear trousers and red long-leg boots with soft soles. To protect themselves from the strong wind and cold on the high plateaus, they wear an embroidered tube-shaped cotton hat. The back edge of the hat is comparatively long, covering the ears and the back of the neck. The hats of young women are inlaid with ornaments. The front edge of the hat is often inlaid with rows of bright-colored and sparkling pearls and silver chains. On festival days and important occasions these hats are worn with matching earrings, necklaces made with precious and semi-precious stones and round breast ornaments called "Aleka". Sometimes they attach red, yellow or white gauze kerchief, several meters in length. When they go in a group, the long gauze kerchief flutter in the wind like beautiful colored clouds on the roof of the world. ~ *|*

Gold Teeth Falling Out of Fashion among Young Tajiks

Gold teeth are a common sight in Tajikistan as they are in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and other places in Central Asia. But that is changing. JJ Fergusson wrote in The Independent, “There are many mysteries in Tajikistan, though perhaps none greater than the national obsession with gold teeth. In Dushanbe, the capital of this desperately impoverished nation, they still glint at you from almost every mouth. In some instances, every single tooth has been replaced. Gold instead of ivory has been the quintessential status symbol in this region for centuries: mined in the Pamir mountains, it has always been in plentiful supply; and what better place to keep your valuables than literally under your eyes? [Source: JJ Fergusson, The Independent, May 15, 1997 +++]

“But despite what you see there is evidence that this ancient tradition is dying. Dental treatment in these post-Soviet times is no longer free: a gold tooth costs about $30 (pounds 18), and a further $15 to install. Last year the average monthly salary here was just $8.60, easily the lowest in the former Soviet Union, making gold a luxury that few Tajiks can now afford. Professor Omar Tairairov, general director of the Tajik Scientific Industrial Association, Stomatology - the country's chief dentist, in other words - said cost is only one reason for the change. "Their value as a status symbol has declined, especially among the young," he said. +++

“He blamed access to Western culture, particularly videos, which have naturally become more widely available since independence in 1991. His words were borne out at a rock concert at the Moskovsky Hall in the city centre. As Sergei, one of the performers and a Robert Plant lookalike, put it: "Why would anyone want to look like Jaws from the James Bond movie?" His girlfriend merely shuddered. +++

“It is not just the young who dislike gold teeth. Matluba Mamadjanova, a middle-aged educational adviser, swapped all four of hers for white metal ceramic ones after attending an American language teachers' conference in Athens - the sort of thing no one ever did in Soviet times. "It was so embarrassing," she said. "There were hundreds of people there and I was the only one with gold teeth. They kept looking at me." +++

Zafar Nazarov, a dentist, confirms the trend. In recent weeks he has taken gold from more than 20 mouths - all of them travelling professionals. "I used to get customers who asked me to replace perfectly healthy teeth with gold ones," he said over tea in his spartan surgery. "Nowadays that sort of thing mostly only goes on in Uzbekistan. They're a flashy lot over there." He said he preferred the "noble metal" to ceramic because "it's soft and malleable" and the tooth can be mounted with less sawing at the root." Later, he offered to install an example of his work: "It's free for guests to our country." I declined politely and he laughed, throwing his head back to reveal a lower jaw studded with sharp points of gold.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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