Bukhara is the largest center of gold embroidery in the Republic. Sources of this craft trace their roots back to deep antiquity. Although embroidery has always been the matter of women, gold embroidery for a long time was the exclusive appendage of men. From this point of view particularly interesting becomes the beautiful legend telling us about competition between the feminine beauty and the beauty of gold. Undoubtedly, the feminine beauty wins as gold becomes dark and tarnishes. That is why people say that since the olden times men were engaged in gold embroidery craft in Bukhara.
The Charter of the Gold Masters mentions that Prophet Yusuf was in for gold embroidery craft. Legendary Hazrati Ijris and Prophet David are considered spiritual tutors of gold embroiderers. Originally, gold was embroidered on ‘korbosu’, home-woven cotton fabric, later on wool, silk and, finally, velvet served the basis for it.
In the 19th century, gold embroidery artisanship was officially related to court arts; the largest gold embroidery shop was situated inside the Arc – residence of the Emir of Bukhara. Exclusively men were working there embroidering splendid in their beauty and richness gowns, chalvars (trousers), dours (decorations for horse’s mane), boots, turbans and others. Women at home were helping their husbands to fulfill some part of their orders. After Emir’s dethronement embroidery business sharply declined as artisans lost their major customer – court and nobility.
As for the urban workshops, they were also closed due to ‘kulaks dispossession’ policy.
During the Soviet period women-embroiders of Bukhara were united into artels to produce small items – skullcaps, some articles of female clothes, pillow-covers, chainakpush (teapot covers), ‘nimcha’ vest coats, belts, shoes and other things.
Women, earlier completely uninvolved into this business, started discovering secrets of this art. In the old times, gold embroidery craft of Bukhara masters was passed on from father to son. Those who had no sons were teaching the next of kin.
Professional inheritance from genera-tion to generation was a common matter. Just by this way the heroine of the article, Mahfuza Salimova, a hereditary embroiderer, representative of the third dynasty of gold embroiderers, acquired this profession. She learned this craft from her father and mother, Nurmukhammad Sultanov also shared his experience with her. Ninety-year old Nurmu-khammad-bobo was the last representative of Bukhara male embroiderers. Like Usto Shirin Murodov he established his own school in gold embroidery business. Ancestors of Mahfuza’s father, Khamidulla Salimov, were embroiderers. Kurbanoi, her grandmother who was in gold embroidery throughout her life, has recently celebrated her 100th anniversary. Mahfuza’s mother, Malika-bibi, has worked at the Bukhara gold embroidery factory for 40 years. Mahfuza’s children and grandchildren are now mastering gold embroidery craft.
Mahfuza’s interest for gold embroidery business revealed itself in her childhood when she was visiting the gold embroidery factory together with her mother. Her first independent work was the skullcap embroidered with ‘sadbarg’ flowers. Later on, she established her own center of craftswomen and called it ‘Sadbarg’.
At present Mahfuza is one of the most experienced women-masters of the city. She introduces new techniques in the craft and passes them on to her pupils. Gold embroidered miniature sketches are among her best works. Inspired by the samples of Middle Ages miniatures and creative works of the Eastern genius Kamoliddin Bekhzad, Mahfuza extended the miniatures to large gold embroidered pictures and created original works of art. Based on the traditional styles of Bukhara gold embroiderers, she has created large pictures in the manner of zardo’zi-zamindo’zi, zardo’zi-guldo’zi, zardo’zi-subbado’zi, zardo’zi-bireshimdo’zi. High quality technique and thin seam make her work irreproachable.
It is remarkable that monumental gold embroidered picture (3o~5 m) has become a wonderful work of fine and decorative art. It depicts Alisher Navoi and Temuride Prince Muminmirzo talking near the mythical tree of life. The picture demonstrates great mastery based on perfect methods of gold embroidery art and bears great artistic value.
Before the 20th century, images of human beings and animals were not found in Bukhara gold embroidery. Firstly, they appeared on the feminine home wear – vests and skullcaps. Such items were made to special order and were not sold in the bazaars. Later on theatres and palaces of culture started ordering gold woven curtains and pictures with plot scenes – pictures of holidays and celebrations. Pictures of famous architectural monuments of Bukhara often served decors. Mahfuza’s pictures also often depict architectural monuments and historical personages.
By applying minimum colors (gold embroidery threads) and means, Mahfuza manages to solve complicated tasks and expand possibilities of tradi-tional gold embroidery art. This refers to the picture ‘Angels in the Garden’ (3o~4 m). On a nice spring day, among the flowers, girls are talking playing doira. No art admirer remains indifferent looking at it. Patterns are very simple, they are mainly represented by such ornaments like ‘islimii’, ‘butador’, ‘modohil’, rosette, petal, bud and twig. Space between core motives – images of people, deer and trees – is filled with smaller patterns.
In gold embroidered miniatures on the historical and philosophic topics like ‘Stars of Ulughbek’ or ‘Four Dervishes’, the master uses gold, silver and silk threads to create original compositions.
Topical pictures that have not been met in Bukhara gold embroidery before opened a new page in the history of this art. These rarest samples of gold embroidery craft have aroused the interest not only in our country but abroad as well. Mahfuza Salimova took part in the exhibitions of the Uzbek traditional applied arts in many countries of the world, including Switzerland, USA, Japan, China and England where she presented gold embroidery from Bukhara. Mahfuza is the winner of the Prize of the President of Uzbekistan during the annual show-contest ‘Tashabbus-2003′ in the nomination ‘The Best Woman-Entrepreneur’.
As for now, the “Sadbarg’ center headed by Mahfuza Salimova trains about 100 gold embroiderers mastering secrets of the craft. Beautiful pictures made by Mahfuza and her pupils fittingly decorate the walls of palaces and theatres, offices and embassies. Her lifelong dream is to acquaint the world with Bukhara gold embroidery art that is in surprisingly great demand today. Guests visiting ancient Bukhara purchase gold embroidered items made by local crafters as gifts and souvenirs. Gold embroidered gowns beautify shoulders of the sportsmen glorifying our Republic beyond its borders. In addition, museums and private collections acquire samples of gold embroidery items presenting genuine works of art.