The Boysun Deer

Issue #1 • 1933

Upon acquaintance with folk culture of Boysun, the embroidery art looks magnificent. From the ancient time, the dowry of a bride included various embroidery pieces, which decorated a room of a newly – married couple. They were big decorative carpets – suzaneh; covers for blankets put on chests – borpush, taqiapush or choishab; frieze stripes running along the wall at the ceiling – dorpech, kirpech and zardevor; sandal – covers – sandalipush; covers for blunkets – bugdjoma, which were embroidered partly – only visible triangle.

The embroidery decorated many subjects – from sacral pray carpets – djoinamaz, various towels and male belt shawls up to small housewares – tea pouches (choi – halta) and others. All subjects had own ornamental motif. In Boysun ornamental embroidery, like in the other regions of Uzbekistan, dominate floral and geometric patterns with rare pieces of stylized pictures of birds and animals. Innovations hardly penetrated into Boysun and for many centuries have been filtered through folk intuition and taste. Therefore, the finding of big suzaneh with pictures of black – haired and white – faced beauties embracing the gracious deer is a unique fact, still not mentioned in scientific publications. Meanwhile, this subject has been used already for 50 years.

The first outlook. When, in 2003, I first saw the subject of lying women and deer, occurred a strong wish to write a slashing article about Boysun’s kitsch. Probably, it could have been relevant and in some regard right, but after the second trip in July of the same year, on the Boysun expedition, my opinion has changed, and the searching for the subjects with lying deer and women grew into scientific research.

Theory. Almost in each kishlak around Boysun we found this subject. At that, its variations – colour of beauties’ dresses and deer, composition and ornament – differed from each other. However, a basic principle of the folk art – creative improvisation within fixed canon has been kept. Unlike various sentimental personages from Indian films in Boysun embroidery on small white shawls and napkins, this subject has been canonized and has stable compositional and monographic traditions. It is embroidered on big suzaneh, and was found even in frieze belt of zardevor (this unique sample was fixed by R. Abdullaev in kishlak of Kofirun).

Genesis. In words of the local expert in folk art, H. Hursandov, this subject came to Boysun in the 1950s, when arrived two families from Ossetia. At their houses were carpets with this subject. Deer and ladies lying on velvet wall carpets and moneyboxes in a form of cats, which were wide – spread in the 1950s among the people just recovered after the war troubles, became a symbol of reviving life. Soon, the critics labeled it as a lowbrow taste and cheap kitsch. Today these imitations get the same evaluation. However, the subject “Boysun deer” became an inherent part of the regional folk culture and original symbol of its art lexis. Its prevalence could be explained partly by popularity of the image of the deer – kiyik in local mentality. This animal – a symbol of beauty and grace, probably, played protective role – its pictures are often seen in ornaments on the tin chests, widely used by the Boysun people.

The earliest embroidery pieces with the deer date back to the 1960s, and the latest ones – to 2003. In the expedition, we have revealed 9 suzaneh in kishlaks of Kuchkak, Bogbolo, Avlod, Passurhi, Arikusti and one graphic embroidery on a white background in Kuchkak. Another embroidery on a white background but with single picture of a girl and deer was fixed at the fair in May 2003, and a double picture of the same composition – in zardevor from kishlak of Kofirun. Most number of suzaneh (5 pieces) with the same subject was found in Kuchkak kishalk. At that, one of them was on a white background; two suzaneh were found in Avlod kishlak and by one suzaneh – in kishlaks of Bogbolo, Arikusti and Passurhi. As the local embroidery mistresses informed, in this kishalks there are a lot of such suzaneh.

Local embroidery mistresses call them “kiyik tasvirli” (literally – with pictures of kiyiks – local variant of the deer) i.e. recognize existence of a decorative motif. According to collected data, the areal of suzaneh with this subject involves Boysun and surrounding kishlaks. Study of embroidery in kishlaks of Sairob, Munchak, Besherkak, Chilanzar, Khojabulgan, Dashti goz as well as in remote mountain villages of Durba, Gumatak and Kurgancha has not given any materials proving existence of this subject out of the area of 10 – 15 km in radius. Some exception is the embroidery piece from Kofirun and probably, some samples with this subject purchased in Boysun or performed in some remote places after drawings of chizmakashes from Boysun (mistresses performing a drawing of ornament, according which mistresses of needlework – chevar embroider the ornament). Such sample was fixed in the remote kishlak of Kurgancha. However, it has not got popularity among the Kungrats, which have especially close and conservative traditions.

Composition and iconography. There are three types of said composition: two variants on suzaneh – double and single pictures and a variant on zardevor – two duplicating double compositions. All of them differ by amazing variety of interpretation of the deer and girls. Dresses of the beauties are decorated with floral motives – almond flowers, floral patterns or bines. The gracious deer in embracing of young stacked women create idyll picture, close to sentimental nature of young girls, waiting for their wedding day. In each case, the mistresses give own interpretation of the subject. Sometimes, they call it “Mountain bride”, sometimes identified it with personages from the famous oriental poem, “Laili and Majnun”. However, it is obvious, that into modern pieces it penetrated from mythological literature – it is going back to the ancient Greek myths about Artemis and the hunter who saw her naked bathing and was turned into the deer as a punishment.

Double and single pictures. The double picture of girls and the deer is the most spread. Usually, in the middle, between these two bisymmetrical compositions there is a stylized tree, flower branch or a vase with flowers. Often, the figures are separated by one or two big medallions. Interesting is combination of medallions and flower branch in zardevor from Kofirun kishlak. Unique are the suzaneh with the female figure and one deer embroidered in Avlod kishlak in the 1970s – 1980s (chizmakash, A. Djalilova) and in kishlak of Passurhi (2003, H. Asadova). Changes in compositional, ichnographic and colour solution in these suzaneh are obvious. Embroidery with a figure of a deer on a white background fixed at the fair during the Festival in Boysun in May 2003 was done in the same year.

Frieze picture. Rare can be considered just one among revealed zardevors from Kofirun kishlak, which contains the subject of girls embracing the deer. Two pairs of girls with deer are symmetrically located along the frieze and naturally add the floral pattern.

Features of iconography. On suzaneh’s big medallion from Kuchkak is embroidered a double picture of birds with a small rosette between them. This subject is known from the pieces of ancient and medieval craft (ceramics, metal, fabrics). This is symbolic realization of the idea of fertility and life reproduction. A pair of birds or one bird on a medallion as an independent subject is typical of embroidery done by mistresses in kishlaks of Boysun. Picturesque pictures of birds are given in the center of suzaneh or decorate frieze belts of zardevors. Bodies of doves, peacocks and pheasants are painted in various colours and thanks to stylization their pictures merge with the vegetative pattern. Original is suzaneh with profile picture of a groom and bride (preserved at BME in Boysun, 1978) with two double pictures of peacocks. Thus, double pictures of girls with the deer follows the tradition of compositional solution hardened in Boysun embroidery.

Iconography of the girls is rather interesting. All of them reflect some generalized image of Caucasian beauty with black hair falling down to shoulders. Often, flowers decorate the hair. In some cases, mistresses perform a curl – karkak round the temple of the girl, which is a decorative sign of a young wife. By this mean, they give local colour to the type of girls. In the earliest embroidery pieces (the 1960s – 1970s – suzaneh from Kuchkak, Avlod and Arykusti) iconography of the girls is, probably, close to the original source – wall carpets from Caucasus. In the carpets a magnificent hairstyle is developed in details, the hair is decorated by flowers and the faces present some Greco – Caucasian type. It is especially pointed out in borpush from Avlod (single composition). In the later works (the 1990s – 2000s) the types had changed – the girls are black-haired, but the hairstyles are not accented and flowers are not so bright. (suzaneh from Kuchkak and Bogbolo) or absent (suzaneh from Boysun). All girls are given in profile. Exception is a single composition on the suzaneh from Yakkatol, where the face of the girl looks very natural en face. Large, rather rough vegetative ornament and unusual iconography give evidence for some provincial variant of the popular subject.

The girls’ dresses are interesting by interpretation. In spite of different time of production, the dresses have similar style – long, with short sleeves and triangular cut at the collar with obligatory belt. Just once it is absent (suzaneh from Kuchkak, 2000). With some variations in details the general silhouette of dresses is kept. They are decorated by rich floral pattern having several variants. They are – separate short branches with flowers, scattered over the dress, various floral rosettes and big vegetative pattern covering all surface of the dress (suzaneh from Arykusti, Yakkatol, Boysun and Kuchkak). There is another variant of the pattern – this is stylized motif of bodom – gul (almond flower) (suzaneh from Boysun “Deer with yellow horns”, 1980; zardevors from Kofirun, the 1980s).

In suzaneh from Kuchkak the dress from yellow fabric on the girl sitting to the left is decorated by the pattern reminding stylized pictures of the deer (similar are floral petroglyphes). The dress on the girl sitting opposite is decorated by floral rosettes. Thus, just one composition gives us different sorts of fabrics. Pattern on the dresses can not be considered a dating criteria since all these variants present both in the earliest and later embroidery pieces.

Colours of dresses also have some variants – light blue and light green (this colour presented just in one suzaneh from Kuchkak), more popular are dark brown and red colours. Sometimes, they present yellow (two suzaneh from Yakkatol, 2000; suzaneh from Boysun, 1980; picture of the girl in zardevor from Kofirun), blue and dark blue colours (suzaneh from Passurhi, Bogbolo and Avlod). In some suzaneh the dresses have different colours of fabrics within the same embroidery piece. For example, in the Boysun embroidery, 2003 one girl is dressed in a blue dress, another – in red one. In zardevor the girls are in white and yellow dresses; in Bogbolo’s suzaneh – in yellow and blue. Nevertheless, colours of fabrics, like the patterns, expose some stable variations of dresses.

A characteristic feature of the personages is footwear. In the earliest embroideries, it was mainly black shoes with open top, in the latest ones – the black shoes are disappeared, just presenting in a form of a narrow black stripe, pointing a contour.

The deer. Solution of images of the deer – kiyiks inhabiting mountain regions of Boysun has its own features. They continue to live there in our days but in more remote places. In suzaneh, the deer are often of blue, turquoise or light blue colours. The horns usually have rounded points and painted in black or brown colours. The exception is suzaneh from Boysun (1980) by H. Gafurova, where the dark – blue deer with yellow horns is given in a single composition. The bodies of light blue – blue and turquoise deer are usually decorated by black (or brown) vertical or horizontal stripes giving the colour of animals’ wool. In suzaneh from Yakkatol, which we defined as a provincial variation of the subject, the deer is given fully blue. Beside blue – light blue spectrum of colour there are pictures of the deer painted in brown tones (suzaneh from Kuchkak, Passurhi, 2003). Iconographically the deer from Kuchkak is unique – its head is crowned by red as burning sharp-pointed horns reminding more a cock’s crest; the brown body has small black lines giving the colour of the wool. Unusual by solution are the deer of black colour in zardevors from Kofirun.

As we could see, the subject of girls with the deer came not only into thematic line of embroidery but became an indicator of originality of creative minding of Boysun needlework mistresses. In spite of traditional patterns of embroidery and their canonic character the Boysun mistresses showed themselves easier and more free in a choice of subjects than needlework mistresses from the other regions. Just in one case, we found refusal of this subject because of religious reasons. However, in general, the tradition to expose alive creatures in Boysun has not been interrupted in spite of any external influence. It continues to be a favourite motif of the Boysun embroidery.

Author: Akbar Khakimov

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