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Jeweller's art of the Karakalpaks of the XIX - XX centuries

Posted: Admin

Date: 2010-02-22

The traditional jeweller's art of the Karakalpaks of the XIX - beginning of XX century represents the richness and variety of shapes, manufacture technique, functional purpose. Female jewellery was in the course of a long historical time the essential part of the national lifestyle, ritual-ceremonial practice, female costume and the national-poetic image of a woman.

Artistic peculiarities. Bright streaks of peculiarity and originality is inherent to the style of the Karakalpak jeweller.s art; integrity, monumentality, archaism of forms, strict symmetry, clarity of contours, expressiveness and at the same time briefness of decor is characteristic to it. The style of Turkmen jeweller.s art is closest to the laconic brevity of lines and minimalism of decor of the Karakalpak jewellery, which is explained by the genetic and territorial nearness of the Karakalpaks and Turkmens, great conformity of their household way of life and religious-ceremonial practice in the past.

The organization of the masters handicraft. The organization of the craft of the Karkalpak jewellers of the XIX - beginning of XX century was inspired with the local preislamic beliefs. They are primarily concerned with the belief in the magical force of precious metals, stones, jewellery itself, the purifying force of fire, protection by the dead ancestors, and are yet imbued with the importance of the Muslim handicraft ceremonial rites. Only men could become skilled jewellers - Zerger (from the Persian zar - gold, i.e. craftsman of gold). An organic part of the organization of jeweller.s craft was the regulations - risale and the system of relations ustashakirt (master - apprentice). An apprentice could be proclaimed a skilled jeweller only by his tutor - pir, after the many long years of learning the settled artistic and technological canons (deviation from them was suppressed by the masters) and tests, giving him the blessing - patiya in front of numerous witnesses and in the company of other recognized skilled jewellers and blacksmiths.

It is interesting that the public attitude towards the activities of the jewellers was by no means simple. On the one hand, jewellery-making was perceived as sacred, destined for the "selected" people; the jewellers and their workshops, instruments were lavished with the aura of sacrality. On the other hand, the jewellers, being connected with fire and metal, were perceived to be sorcerers and wizards, people were afraid be the object of their anger.

Manufacturing technique. The jewellers possessed various technical touches of metalworking and assemblage (forging, casting, punching, soldering), as well as the technique of decoration and artistic treatment (engraving, filigree, embossing, notching, gilding, silvering, etc.). The mounting of stones was made rounded, in the technique of blind rivet. The jewellers manufactured mainly female jewellery as well as jewellery for the male waistbands, weapons and harness.

Manufacturing materials. The Karakalpak jewellery was made from silver. Only the special ritual types of jewellery anshik and jez bilzik was made from bronze and brass. Gold was used for notching the ornament on the flatness of the jewellery, the only kind of integral gold jewellery was female nasal rings - arabek. It is interesting that the ear, neck, breast, waist, nape and hand jewellery was made from silver. And the completely gold-plated jewellery was made only for headdresses of brides and young women. Evidently, this is concerned with the ancient impressions of gold, as a metal that was associated with the Sun and source of masculinity and accordingly of silver connected with the Moon that patronizes the source of feminineness, i.e. a woman first wore golden jewellery only when entering the matrimonial age.

One can find the confirmation of the cosmogonical interpretation of the ideas about the properties and symbolism of the colour of jewellery manufacturing materials exactly in the local preislamic spiritual-religious views (in mythology, national epic literature, etc.) of the Central Asian nations. For example, in the ancient Karakalpak epos "Sharyar", the heroine sees a prophetical dream, in which the Saint monks are likening her future children - twins to the heavenly bodies:

"You will give birth to a son - Sun. You will give birth to a daughter - Moon".

People saw in gold primarily the preciousness of the metal itself as a symbol of richness and might. In silver, people valued primarily its noble beauty, the charming white radiance. Silver was likened to the mysterious moonlight, compared with the innocence of a young beauty, with the poetic image of a faithful bride - wife. The word ak (white) in the Karakalpak language contains the concepts of pure, truthful, genuine. It turned into a symbol of spirituality, an amulet against dark forces, a symbol of the Saint protector. In the same epos "Sharyar" the mythic Saint monks are described as some white appearance:

"At dawn I dreamed about forty monks in white turbans. Their clothes flowed like white waves and their feet did not touch the ground, like forty evanescent clouds".

Cornelian, turquoise, corals were used for the encrustation of jewellery. The colour of the stones was also given magical qualities. The red colour of corals and cornelian symbolized the life itself, it was compared with the source of masculinity, the colour of vivifying blood, the origin of all the living. Here it is sufficient to mention the ancient Turkic deity Al - spirit of Fire, majestic Sun, this is exactly why the Turkic language nations connect red colour with the concept of an amulet. It is said in the abovementioned extract of the "Sharyar" epos:

"Erenler (Saint monks) gave a red flower to my right hand, and the dawn lighted up the East, this is your son in the future".

The red cornelian and corals were supposed to "secure" the holder great prolificacy, these talismans acted as amulets not only for the holder but also her posterity. It is understandable why red colour dominated in the costume of the Karakalpak bride and woman of fertile age; headdress, breastcollar, armlets and embroidery . all in red colour. In its turn, the blue colour of turquoise was also the symbol of life. This is the colour of the sky (remember the sacral meaning of the blue sky for ancient Turks - Kyok).

But, most importantly, this is the colour of water, which in the sandy desert was called life since ancient times. It was perceived in the East that turquoise is the symbol of chastity and purity, it brings happiness and good mood, protects from the lung diseases. Young ladies and women were supposed to carry this stone in order to attract the love of the husband, young man. Moreover, the word peruz (turquoise) is translated from Persian as "victor". The Karakalpaks compared blue and dark blue colour with the source of feminineness (this is the colour of the ritual blue wedding dress - kok koylek). Coming back to the "Sharyar" epos, we can bring an example:

"Erengler gave a blue flower to my left hand, And the moon lighted up the East, this is your daughter in the future". Such combination of the colour symbolism in jewellery in the wedding costume as well: yellow - the Sun (gold), white - the Moon (silver), red - fire, blue or dark blue - sky and water, evidently harbours the ancient mythopoetic motives and images of the Universe. They, as it is known, embodied the universal world conception for the ancient people, actualized the ideas about life in the entire fullness of its meaning. Stereotypes of the perception of jewellery. The Central Asian nations of yore gave jewellery universal spiritual-ritual functions of amulets, which is connected with the perceptions about the magical protection of a woman as the main component of the universe. In the process of jewellery evolution their artistic and aesthetic function intensified, they gained the quality of a festive attribute, which demonstrated the luxury and richness. All this was embodies in the stereotype perception of expensive complexes of jewellery connected with the idea of the particular vulnerability of a young woman (all her jewellery were amulets) and the special "Eastern" view of the woman-daughter and woman-mother (index of the material prosperity, social status of the father and husband).

The Karakalpak female jewellery expressed the belonging to a certain class . young ladies (youth), brides and young married women (adolescence), mothers (maturity), mothers of mothers (old age). The jewellery was divided into compulsory (daily, of a simplified form), as well as ritual (festive, elegant and heavy).

Ritual meaning. It can be briefly mentioned that jewellery occupied a significant place in the important wedding ceremonial rites of the Karakalpaks. Thus, in the ritual presenting of gifts togyzlyk by the bride.s parents to the groom.s matchmakers, first was a silver bracelet that symbolized their agreement to the wedding. During the prewedding ceremony of parting of the bride with her relatives tanysu she was presented with materials, clothes and jewellery. On the first meeting of the bride the relatives of the groom received presents kol karau from her, in particular jewellery - earrings, rings, bracelets. Special ritual bracelets jez bilezik were among them, which were designed only for keeping in the trunks of old relatives as a symbolic junction of the totem of the bride's family and the totem of the groom's family. Additionally, the bride expressed the transfer to the class of a married woman by the ritual removing of the connecting chain on the earrings sinseleli sirga (literally - genealogy), putting on the jewellery in the form of a ring and circle - sealrings, bracelets, nasal rings, disk-shaped amulet, etc. During the rituals of the transfer of a woman to the other cycle (after the wedding, birth of children, grandchildren, etc.) many types of jewellery were taken off or replaced by more modest ones. Women did not wear jewellery at all during mourning.

The genesis and semantic of motives. The genesis of many forms can be traced back to the art traditions of the steppe East - nomads living near to the Aral, saks (massagets-apasiaks) and Scythians (sarmato-alans), later - Turkic tribal unions (pechenegs and oguzs), as well as the city civilization of the Ancient Khorezm. This explains the ethnographic parallels in the jeweller's art of the Karakalpaks with the jeweller.s art of the Turkmens, Uzbeks of Khorezm as well as the Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs and other local Central Asian schools. The spiritual and magic views played a determining role in the shaping of Karakalpak jewellery. Three groups of motives are classified in it:

1. The ancient cosmogonic sign symbolism (Sun, Moon), anthropomorphic motives (statuettes of the Goddess of fertility), folklore-poetic symbols of the tsar and army honour. For example: shar tuyme - crossshaped solar symbolism; jyga - solar circle; ayshyk - disk-shaped form of the moon; ay syrga - half moon. These widespread symbols of many nations were endowed the signs of fertility and might. The semantic of shar tuyme is the universal benevolent symbolism with temporary stratifications: archaic - sun, Zend - fire, sides of the world, steppe culture - totem of the sheep (a cross with trefoils on the edges) and shanarak of the yurt as a symbol of the hearth of the nomad. Forehead jewellery jyga (the regal aigrette) on the wedding headdress saukele appears as a result of the interpretation of the form of old domes made from feathers for the sultan, with time recast into a peculiar emblem - symbol of honour. Initially its shape was also connected with the solar symbol. The crescent shape ay syrga and the moon disk ayshyk are connected with the veneration of the night luminary. Ayshyk was in the course of time recast into the shape of the fighting shield that had a straightforward protecting predestination. The motive of the Goddess of fertility was preserved in the anshyk (mother) jewellery, its shape and name can be traced back to the archaic statuettes of the mother-goddess. It was presented to the bride on weddings, as a powerful amulet for a woman preparing to become a mother. The female figure and the womb were schematically depicted in the shape of the jewel. Haykel, a sort of an amulet with a stylized image of the fragments of a fort wall is the reflection of the sacral objects of worship, in this case an architectural element, in the jewel. The image of a fort where a person found shelter was evidently endowed with protecting guarding force.

2. Zoomorphous motives - recast and stylized images of ancient totems and ongons as a result of the natural surroundings of the seminomads. For instance: another sort of the haykel (monument, idol) is distinguished for its original interpretation. It is a cylindrical amulet-case with a topping in the form of an archaic talisman - bull's horns. Many nations of the ancient world endowed with magical properties the horns, fangs, claws, feathers, etc. of those animals and birds that are notable for special fertility and force. It was conceived that wearing them transfers these qualities on the human. This is why in the past many jewels rendered these zoomorphous shapes. The adversarial zoomorphous images (predatory bulls. heads, adversarial silhouettes of sheep above them, the images of a pair of birds may be encountered more seldom) are characteristic to the composition of the ritual bronze types of anshyk. This motive of the adversarial silhouettes represents an ancient idea about the binary opposition of the worlds - confrontation of life and death. A wolf is a well-known totem in the genealogic mythology of the ancient Turks. The image of wolves. heads signified the wolf.s ability to enter "both worlds". The simultaneous image of a wolf and a sheep reflects the ancient ideas about totemic animals that protect water - in daytime (a sheep - "sun") and during nighttime (a wolf - "moon").

The cast kuyma bilezik and ritual jez bilezik bracelets are notable for their archaic shape. Their notched ends signified snake and fish heads, clutches and teeth of predatory animals, and the ornament depicted poisonous insects. Apparently these bracelet shapes originate from the image of ancient tribal totems and the custom to carry them with oneself. The rudiments of the cult of a woman-bird - the Umay holy mother, an ancient Turkic goddess of fertility, hunters and warriors - were very clearly preserved in the jeweller's art. The range of its images was closely related to the zoomorphic themes. First of all, it can be traced in the temporal pendants kyran (vigilant, tenacious). These are the stylized images of the "scenes of torment" - a hunting bird "attacking" the horned archar. The term itself and the zoomorphous motives appear as the equivalents of the ideas about the sacral hunting birds, the magic of hunting and the cult of Umay. The semantics of the jumalak tuyme spherical pendant are related to the myth-symbol of the "world egg" from which the universe is born, it is connected with the ancient antimystical ideas and the late influences of the bird Umay cult. The baka tuyme and ayry tuyme pendants are the stylized images of the totem of a frog which was endowed with the ability to summon rain and the rebirth of nature. Having been conceived as the totemic symbol of fertility, the baka tuyme pendant, during the process of its artistic evolution, turned into a symbol of the life tree (and came to resemble the leaf of a tree) having absorbed the ideas of a cult connected with the agricultural culture.

3. Utilitarian items are the details of clothes and warrior's and hunter's arming (helmet, arm-band, shield, bow), shaman's attributes and archaic fetishes which during the revolution were recast as ritual, magic and sacral objects (based on their "useful" characteristics) and later they acquired the qualities of highly artistic jewellery. The artistic canon of the Karakalpak jewelry art meant a semantic combination of the symbolism of ancient cults (cosmogonical, fetishism, totemism, etc.) and the national poetical conceptions of some utilitarian items. The first one, certainly, had lost its primary semantic in the course of centuries, but it always preserved the meaning of protection, life and prosperity. For example, tobelic, saukele and gumis takhiya (fighting and regal helmet), khasil tasli bilezik (hunter's and warrior's arm-band), ayshik (fighting shield), arebek (a bow with a tight string), amulet-holders - prismatic moyintumars (needle cases), triangle jaurinsha (arrow-head) and the others.

The utilitarian function of named items gives way to magical, conjuring and aesthetic ones in jeweller's art. The former forms acquired decorativeness and continued to function as amulets. For instance, saukele and tobelic were the ritual headdresses used as wedding attributes which characterized assimilation of a bride to the Holy Mother and goddess Umay, with the performance of all magic functions of the patroness. This can be judged by the helmet-shaped form of saukele, motives of the decor and name, including the details: saukele from the Turkic "sau" - health, happiness and "kelle" - head, or "sha" - king and "kulo" - hat; jyga - the royal regalia; kyran - the vigilant hunting bird, all are connected with benevolence. Moreover, the genesis of the tobelik and saukele helmet-shaped headdresses finds connection with the shapes of royal crowns and helmets of the "amazons" in science. Leather bands that fastened the skin clothes on the wrist, which later acted as a means of protection in the battle and on a hunt served as the prototype of the plastic hasyl tasly bilezik bracelets with carnelians and notched edges in the form of predatory fangs, claws, with a more recent interpretation of them in the motive of a flower bud. Researchers connect the shapes of cylindrical and triangular amulets with the echoes of the ancient phallic cult. In our opinion, they had utilitarian protoforms - needle cases and the arrow-head (sharp metal objects popular amulets). Thus, the Karakalpak back jaurynsha jewels and the uk-yey detail in Khorezm language are analogical in shape (arrow-bow). As a rule, the bow was carried cast behind the back, hence the locations of these jewels at the back and the symbolism connected with the protecting function of the back, rear.

In conclusion, it should be noted that since the 1930s a fall in demand of the population for the traditional forms of jewellery was observed that lead to the extinction of the Karakalpak jeweller's craft. This happened primarily as a result of the changes in the social and would-outlook life conditions in society that forced out the old stereotypes of perceiving the jewellery as amulets. The ancient types of jewellery, having come to disuse turned into ethnographic rarities, were readily hired out or sold to museum collections or just visiting tourists. Secondly, a new conception of the changing fashion was born, the aesthetic tastes of the nation changed, irreversible changes of clothes and accessories requirements adapted to the new conditions of vital activity of the modern woman took place under the influence of the new times. Factory-made miniature jewellery from gold and precious stones - gems appeared in the market. At the same time the samples of ancient jewellery remain to this very day the artistic .models., preserving large creative potential for the modern art connected with the organization of the ornament and plasticity of shapes and the perfection of colour and facture originality.

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General Information

Capital Tashkent
Official languages Uzbek
Recognised regional languages Karakalpak
Government Presidential republic
Area 447,400 km2
Population 27,372,000
Currency Uzbekistan som
Time zone UZT (UTC+5)
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Calling code 998

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