Items created by Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov, abrband master from Margilan whose hands gave a new life to centuries-old traditions, featured magical designs that charmed everyone with their beauty and harmony.
Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov comes from the dynasty of masters that counts seven generations. To be a successor of traditions transferred from father to son is a big advantage for a craftsman. Every usto – master of the highest skill – who hired assistants and took apprentices, was not very keen on sharing the secrets of his art with them, whereas to his sons he passed all his knowledge and experience, knowing that the business of his life was not going to be in the hands of strangers. Besides, dynasty masters already have the sense of taste and measure in their blood, as well as special attitude to the craft. Usto Fozil, Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov’s father, did not encourage his son’s engagement in weaving. Perhaps, the reason was the multitude of problems associated with cottage-based manufacturing at that time. Already in the 19th century this was a rather frequently occurring phenomenon, when a person, knowing of all the challenges of his profession and wishing for a better share for his children, sent them for training to the masters of other professions.
Usto Fozil worked in silk-weaving artels (cooperatives) established in 1930s. His only son Turgunbai often visited different textile-making workshops with his father and fell in love with the craft.
In 1960s, after the closure of all the artels producing hand-made fabrics, usto Fozil, as many other master-craftsmen of that time, started working at the factory, where weaving was mechanized. Satin was the only kind of textile that was produced. Abrbands, weavers, dyers and other masters who continued working at home were severely persecuted by authorities. Discovered hand-operated looms were burned and their owners often put in prison. In spite of this, many craftsmen tried to preserve the handcraft traditions and pass them to the young generation.
From 1970s it became possible to engage in hand-weaving again at the Yodgorlik factory created at that time in the city of Margilan. For the first time in many years the traditions of hand-weaving craft began to be revived. Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov became one of the best master-craftsmen in the factory, having created over a hundred textile designs.
The manufacturing of hand-made abr textiles is a rather complicated process that involves many stages and requires the participation of masters of different professions: spinners, warpers, binders, warp dyers, designers and weavers. Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov was one of the few masters who possessed most of these skills. Yet his passion was the creation of designs. The creators of splendid textiles of the 19th and 20th centuries known worldwide as ikat (from Malaysian and Indonesian word ‘mengikat’ or ‘tie up’, in analogy with Indonesian textiles, which, just as abr textiles, are produced by means of warp reservation) remembered dozens of designs, never using a stencil. This is not easy, knowing that a master only marks with thin strokes the design outlines on one half of the warp. Besides, the chizmakash (designer), when putting these marks, should estimate a decrease in width and length during weaving so that the pattern in the finished fabric is not distorted. This can be done only by true specialists who have professionally mastered the secrets of the craft.
Treasuring the heritage of the former generation of masters, Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov worked with traditional designs such as chayon, patnis, tovus, etc. Not a less important place in his creative work was given to the search for new patterns. The master liked to give them names of famous personalities. Among such patterns are “Bib-khomim”, “The Star of Ulugbek”, “Uvaisi”, “Nodira” and “Navoi”. To mark the 2500the anniversary of the city of Bukhara the artist created the design called “Bukhoroi Sharif”, and for the Independence Day the one called “Mustakilliq” and “Khuriyat”.
A meaningful and important stage in the life of Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov was the meeting with a well-known expert in abr textiles S. M. Makhkamova, whom Turgunbai-aka often referred to with big gratitude. It was she who showed him the 19th-20th century textiles from museum collections. Although the master did see some samples of this kind of textiles that were preserved in his family, this was a kind of revelation to him, because the manufacturing of silk shoyi and semi-silk adras textiles was forgotten by 1950s. Starting from 1990s, Mirzaakhmedov began to revive the production of these textiles using, very importantly, natural dyes, which were no longer in use already at the beginning of the 20th century.
As well-known, when textiles were designed in the 19th century, there were regional distinctions in patterns. For example, Bukhara fabrics were characterized by geometric shapes, simple and laconic patterns, brightness of colour and density of texture. Thinner and lighter Fergana textiles were known for their fine and complex vegetable designs in reserved colours. In Samarqand fabrics were decorated with large geometric and, less often, vegetable patterns of one colour that contrasted with the background colour. As all these peculiarities were forgotten with the termination of cottage industry, masters have chosen their own patterns. For instance, among Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov’s textiles once can find copies of wonderful 19th century Bukhara fabrics. This is a kind of a master-class that can help extract precious knowledge of old masters.
As a result, pieces made by the master began to differ significantly from textiles of other masters by their polychromatic palette and complexity of patterns, which was typical for the finest samples of the 19th century ikat. To be true to tradition, one has to keep textiles as narrow as 28-30 centimetres, which was characteristic of textiles from Fergana Valley, as well as other regions of Uzbekistan. This is not a mere formalistic adherence to models, but a dependence on a pattern that can loose its exquisiteness if enlarged. There were also wider and “simpler” textiles, but both shared the same harmony in colour and pattern. Besides, these textiles are durable and good quality. Unfortunately, many modern-day silk and semi-silk fabrics that become increasingly popular, run and loose colour with the first washing, which is the result of improper dying. Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov preferred natural dyes, sometimes combined with chemical ones, soundly fixing every colour to guarantee colour durability.
The achievements of the master were recognized at various exhibitions and fairs in Uzbekistan and abroad. The master has especially fond memories of his participation in the silk festival “Ikat” in 2000 held on the island of Okinawa, Japan, were his art was highly appreciated by colleagues from different countries. Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov was the first among Uzbekistan masters to receive UNESCO certificate for the contribution to the preservation and development of traditional crafts. In 2004, to mark usto’s 60th anniversary, the “Hamsa” Handicraft Development Centre and Caravan Gallery organized an exhibition at the Ilkhom Theatre, which displayed shoyi, satins, adras, cotton textiles, as well as costumes made of these fabrics, silk scarves, shawls dyed using the bandan tie-round method, and design sketches. In 2005 Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov was awarded a First Degree Diploma at the republican contest “Tashabbus-2005″.
Turgunbai-aka had an incredible charm and jovial character. When he talked enthusiastically about something, he liked to sing or recite poems, including his own. Speaking of his craft, Turgunbai Mirzaakhmedov was concerned that the number of masters with creative approach to their work becomes smaller and smaller, and that the quality of textiles is compromised in pursuit of profits.
Encouraging is the fact that, with the departure of the great master, the line of succession in the Mirzaakhmedovs family is not broken. Foziljon and Kambaroi, the master’s junior heirs, keenly explore the complex profession of their father and have a lot to learn yet, while Rasul Mirzaakhmedov, the elder son of Turgunbai-aka, for more than ten years have been rightfully considered master and is a worthy continuator of the family tradition.