September 23, 2012
Qaraqalpaq Culture and Textiles
Presentation by David and Sue Richardson

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A fully decorated Qaraqalpaq yurt (Qara U'y) is a joyful sight one of the most delightful nomadic dwellings in the whole of Central Asia. However Qaraqalpaq weavings have never been properly researched and remain relatively unknown compared to those of their Qazaq, Uzbek, or Turkmen neighbours. Many items that are described as Qaraqalpaq are not Qaraqalpaq at all, while genuine Qaraqalpaq weavings are frequently mislabelled and incorrectly dated.

After introducing the Qaraqalpaqs and describing their unusual formerly semi-nomadic lifestyle, David and Sue described the special features of the Qaraqalpaq qara u'y and how it was made. The key focus of their talk was the various structural and decorative weavings associated with the yurt, along with Qaraqalpaq storage bags, rugs, and carpets. They explained how they were woven and how they were used. They ended by attempting to resolve the long-standing controversy that has surrounded Qaraqalpaq carpets for over a century.

David and Sue Richardson have been studying the Qaraqalpaqs full-time for the past fourteen years, making frequent visits to the Aral region and working with local academics, archaeologists, and museum curators. Their richly illustrated large-format book, Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta, was published by Prestel in July. It is the first definitive account of the Qaraqalpaqs and their stunning textile arts available in the English language.

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