About the Project


Ahrbandi (Central Asian ikats) represent a special and recognizable group among ikat textiles, which main features are bright colors and a certain blurriness of the patterns. Abr textiles became popular mainly during the 19th and 20th centuries in Central Asia and are considered to be one of the most significant textile legacies in the history of the transcontinental Great Silk Road. The exact time of emergence of this ikat technology in Central Asia cannot be definitely determined. The earliest archaeological findings of ikat objects on the Asian continent are dated to the 7th century AD.

During the 19th century, ikat fabrics played an important economical role: commercially, they were luxuries and valuable trading goods. These fabrics indicated social distinction in costume, presents (e.g. representative robes), and ceremonial costumes. Both the taste of consumers of ikat textiles and the textiles’ pattern designs has experienced a multitude of transformations. Since the 1960s, the value of traditional textile handicraft in Uzbekistan – the main center of Central Asia ikat production – has been re-discovered and developed. Since Uzbekistan gained political independence in 1991, the ikat textiles have experienced a new renaissance in fashion design and in the folklore business. Contemporary ikat production is not as varied and rich as it was in the 19th century. Many traditional textiles are not produced anymore. When mentioned in literature, there is often a lack of precise explanations about technology and terminology.

In the middle of first decade of the 21th century, Uzbek ikats began making their way into the world of international fashion. In 2005, one of the most famous US designers, Oscar de la Renta, was the first to present an “Uzbek” collection. Later, in 2007, a series of experiments with Uzbek ikats was successfully made by Nicolas Ghesquiere (House of Balenciaga). Frida Giannini, creative director of Gucci and Dries Van Noten, was inspired by the traditional textiles of Uzbek culture. Since that time, ikat has become one of the hits in international fashion. Outfits with ikat print have been produced by almost all popular fashion brands.

The special research executed for this project has found numerous Central Asian ikat collections in many world-famous museums. Among them are the Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, the Uzbek Museum of Applied Arts, the Bukhara State Architecture and Art Museum-Reserve, the Textile Museum in Washington (USA), the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Great Britain), the Linden Museum in Stuttgart (Germany), the Kunstkamera in Saint Petersburg (Russia), the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw (Poland), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), and the Islamic Arts Museum (Malaysia).

Over years of research, a huge electronic collection of data and images of Central Asian ikats has been gathered and established. The database includes data of ikats from various times. The data has mainly been extracted from museum catalogs and other literary sources. Information about contemporary ikats has also been gathered during field investigations in the main ikat production centers of modern Uzbekistan since 2008: in textile shops, at famous textile markets in the Uzbek cities of Andijan, Namangan, Marghilan, Bukhara, Urgut and Tashkent and during meetings and interviews with Uzbek textile handicraftsmen, as well as tradesmen at textile markets in Istanbul.

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