On March 17, 2009, not far from the “Uzbekfilm” studio in Tashkent, a public family house-museum was opened. Only three year ago the site was empty, overgrown with weed. Saltanat-opa had to make a lot of effort. First, she successfully petitioned for the allocation of a land plot. With the help of Chilanzar District Authority (khokimiyat) the construction of a residential house and the building for the future museum began. Now the civil works are almost finished, exhibits have been moved from the old apartment, and display rooms set up. The largest room of 130 square meters is on the ground floor; another four rooms are on the first. Currently, the assets of the house-museum include about five thousand items.
So who is the woman who makes the arrangements for the house-museum? Saltanat Siddikova was born in 1935 in the town of Bostanlyk in Tashkent Province. Just before the Second World War her family moved to Gulistan collective farm (now the area is within the boundaries of Tashkent city). At the beginning of the war her father went to the frontline and reached Berlin, received awards for service in battle, including the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy that was conferred on him already after the war. He returned home handicapped.
Saltanat-opa recalls that the years of war and the years that followed were full of hardships. “When I was still in the first grade of school, I was engaged in farm work, driving a small tractor. The skill of operating the machine acquired in childhood also proved useful later on. For ten years I worked on a tractor, and then for 55 years I was driving a car”.
Saltanat-opa is a strong-willed and hard-working woman, with simple yet dignified manners. She likes things to be in order. She has 12 children of her own and two adopted ones, plus 59 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, whom she always teaches to be honest and diligent. All her life she was engaged in farm-work; once she took a piece of land in lease. In 1985 she retired; she was awarded Shukhrat Medal.
Today Saltanat-opa is a member of a number of public organizations, such as Woman’s Council of Tashkent Province, the Nuroniy (Noble) Republican Foundation, The Friendship Society, the Oltin Meros (Golden Heritage) Foundation, and the NDPU.
As part of different delegations and as a tourist Siddikova visited many countries: Germany, France, Poland, Bulgaria, India, Pakistan, Iran, the U.A.E., Russia… Several times she received foreign guests at her home.
‘Why did you decide to create a house-museum?’, I ask Saltanat-opa.
‘When I was little’, she replies, ‘at length I contemplated things in our and our neighbours’ homes – ancient kumgan, clay pots and other things, interested in and fascinated by their history. Later on my interest grew into a desire to preserve these things. My father encouraged me, saying that in the life of every person there should be an aspiration for something sublime, and that every man is born to do something good and useful for others. For many years I collected antiques, items of art and culture, I travelled to Samarqand and Bukhara and other towns and villages. Through my friends, relatives and acquaintances I learned about many things that interested me. Some items remained from my parents, others I acquired myself. Some exhibits come from China, Russia, India, Turkey, Latvia and other countries. There are some that are gifts from overseas guests. But the main part of the collection is, of course, constituted by items of Uzbek decorative and applied art created by masters over many centuries.
The museum brings an opportunity to be introduced to rarities that constitute the cultural heritage of Uzbekistan. Embroidered palyak alone are nearly as many as 30 pieces. These can be referred to as traditional art form with its own style that has been preserved over many centuries, and be used to study the technique of embroidery and ornamental decoration. Among the exhibits are ancient men’s, women’s and children’s garments, gowns and dresses, based on which one can study not only the cuts, but also fabric texture (100 items); women’s head-scarves (30 items), and skull-caps (up to 50 specimens).
Of particular interest are the gold-embroidered gowns that stand out with their decorativeness and ornamental diversity of their embroidery. Earrings, diadems, chest-pieces, amulets and sochpopuk hair-braid decoration are also represented in the museum exposition. Created many years ago, they are still striking in their beauty and fine quality. Different metal-working techniques were employed in their manufacturing: carving, smithery, casting, chasing, engraving, laid-on and open-work filigree, stamping… Though the shapes are traditional, the items feature an intrinsic richness of spatial and plastic solutions.
The museum displays a lot of ceramic crockery: khum, two-handled and single-handled jars, etc. Of interest is a ceramic lamp, chirog, with green glazing and single mouth, tentatively dating to the 13th century. There is also togora – large ceramic vessel shaped as a pan and used for making dough or for laundering. There are many curious house utensils such as large wooden mortars for grain grinding, wicker platters, baskets, and wooden spinning-wheels. One can also find traditional musical instruments, both string and wind, as well as gramophones and old books in Arabic.
Perhaps, one of the most impressive is the collection of chased copper items (red copper). This ancient art, which is second in age only to ceramics, has its own established styles with specific shapes of items, technical and artistic devices. Most widely known are the items wrought by masters from Bukhara, Khiva, Samarqand, Fergana Valley and Tashkent. Today it is certainly difficult to discuss their actual dating, yet there is no doubt that many of them are more than a century old. A very rare specimen is a handled lamp of red copper in a closed tetrahedral case that could be used to move along underground passages.
Among other chased copper items are chilim smoking paraphernalia, norin togora noodle pans, and kozon bowls – one with four “ears”, the other in an original cylindrical shape with two very thin ring-shaped handles; wash-basins, etc. There are unique cylindrical vessels (three of them) used for food grinding with the help of double-ended pestles with spherical ends. The body of each vessel has two raised girdling elements. Upper and lower rims are bent outward. They resemble stands that were in use in the 12th century, only without ornamentation.
In early 2000s Saltanat-opa donated more than 60 items to the State Museum of the History of the Temurids as a tribute to the memory of the great ancestor. Today she is a welcome guest of the Museum and a regular participant of events organized to mark Amir Temur’s birthday, Navruz holiday, etc.
Today the house-museum is a home to three families: two of Saltanat’s two sons and a daughter, and to herself. Officially, the function of a house-museum director is performed by her son Furkat Siddikov. This is a family business, and Saltanat-opa believes that all members of her household should carry on the work of her life, maintain the museum, improve it, replenish with new exhibits and entertain visitors, for the house-museum is intended and created for people. It is not merely storage but a place where people come to get in touch with the nation’s history and to be introduced to its lifestyle, culture, art and traditions, which, while changing over time, never lost their national base.
There is still a lot that needs to be done in the museum so that not only could it store all rarities collected by Saltanat Siddikova, but also to make these items accessible for experts and general public. This task requires a systematization of the exhibits and clarification of the time and place of their origin, which is impossible without a specialized research. The exhibits need to be properly filed and accounted for, and each of them has to be given adequate place in the exposition space; also, issues related to the manufacturing of museum equipment need to be addressed.