Gaining the independence gave Uzbekistan an important impetus in the process of renaissance and revival of traditional arts and crafts, which towards the end of the twentieth century were in crisis. The researchers note that “…by the 1990s, the economics of traditional crafts of Uzbekistan was in difficult condition; the demand for the handicrafts has dropped dramatically. Essentially, traditional arts and crafts have shifted into the sphere of low-quality souvenir consumer goods. A new historical era of Uzbekistan in the early 1990s has identified the special nature of the process of preservation and development of traditional applied art of Uzbekistan” (1, p. 16-17).
The most notable positive changes occurred in the sphere of traditional Uzbek textiles, handmade embroidery, silk weaving and carpet making, which were in demand in various areas of design of Uzbekistan – starting from aesthetics of clothing to the decoration of the household environment. Within a short period many pieces have been created in the field of traditional and contemporary textiles and design that are in high demand both in Uzbekistan and abroad (2).
However, despite the ever growing interest in this art there are problems associated with both the artistic quality of Uzbek textile and economic aspects of its development. To date there was no any professional assessment of the creative work of the designers of traditional and contemporary textile, which would be highly relevant. Based on the international experience of support of traditional crafts, UNESCO introduced the practice of promoting artists and designers in the form of organizing the contests and festivals with subsequent awarding of Quality Certificates. In the spring of 2015, on the initiative of the head of the UNESCO office in Uzbekistan, Ms. Krista Pikkat, an expert group was created for consideration of this issue. During the discussion it was decided to hold the Festival of traditional textiles “Atlas Bayrami” at the Centre for Traditional Crafts of Margilan followed by awarding the UNESCO Quality Certificates. Unlike other festivals that covered various crafts, it was decided that this festival focuses only on traditional textiles.
The Festival was preceded by painstaking research and expert work of the leading national and international experts, the concept of the Festival has been developed, the list and the program of activities has been specified as well as the dates of its conduction – 10-12 September of 2015. On the morning of September 11, in a solemn atmosphere the official opening ceremony of the First festival of traditional textiles “Atlas Bayrami” took place.
The Festival was attended by leading craftsmen from different regions of Uzbekistan, specialists in the field of applied art and design, representatives of local authorities and communities, as well as foreign visitors, in particular, a group of leading Korean experts on traditional textile and design, and the Artist for Peace by the UNESCO – designer, Bibi Russell.
The Festival’s program was very intense and interesting aimed at practical implementation of its basic goals and objectives. On September 9-10, in Margilan, the workshops and trainings for young artists of Uzbekistan on natural dyeing, hand block printing, embroidery and design have been held. The exhibition of creative works of participants of competition was organized in the Center of Traditional Crafts of Margilan and the exhibition fair of products of the craftsmen of the Ferghana Valley was held in the city park.
Within the framework of the Festival, on September 11, an international scientific practical conference “Actual issues of preservation and development of traditional textiles of Uzbekistan” was held, academics and practitioners-designers from Uzbekistan, South Korea and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh have attended it. Presentations of the national experts – A. Khakimov, “Traditions and innovation in embroidery of Uzbekistan”, Sh. Abdullaeva, “Problems of preservation and development of abre fabrics of Uzbekistan” and B.Nodir, “Yesterday and today of the Uzbek carpet weaving” were followed by a display of unique samples of embroidery, carpets and abre fabrics from museums and private collections. As members of the jury, the speakers, along with an analysis of the general situation in these types of Uzbek textile, gave a detailed description and assessment of the products presented by craftsmen and designers in the contest. Considering the positive examples, at the same time the deficiencies, eclectic and weak solutions have been noted. Such combination of academic approach and practical recommendations is an extremely important methodological decision that meets the idea and objectives of the conference. According to many participants of the Festival, the content of the reports will allow craftsmen to direct their efforts at improving the artistic quality of their work and to pay more attention to the invaluable experience of national traditions.
The interest was aroused by presentations of the Korean scientists and designers – Jisuk Chung (“Life according to traditions: modernization and commercialization of traditional products in Korea”) and Zyman Ahn (“Design trends in Korea”) who shared his experience of using the Korean traditional techniques of applied arts. Special attention was given to the emotional and informative presentation of the honorary guest of the Festival – Bibi Russell from Bangladesh, who in her report “Something NEW, something OLD” has shared her personal experience of restoring the old textiles in her country and promotion of products of local craftswomen on the world market.
An important phase of the conference has been its final document in the form of recommendations by participants, which expressed the gratitude to the government of Uzbekistan and UNESCO for the excellent organization of the Festival. The participants of the conference have unanimously supported the proposal to support the efforts of the UNESCO office in Uzbekistan on cooperation with local governmental and civil institutions in the field of revival and development of traditional crafts in various regions of the country;
- On the advisability of holding the annual Festival of traditional textiles of Uzbekistan in Margilan;
- On introducing the abre fabrics of Uzbekistan in the Representative list of UNESCO;
- On conducting a conclusive exhibition of products by traditional craftsmen and designers who have received the Quality Certificates of UNESCO in Tashkent and other cities of Uzbekistan;
- On holding the workshops, seminars and scientific-practical conferences on traditional textiles of Uzbekistan with participation of leading specialists of national and international standing;
- On the need to pay special attention to the study and promotion of the cultural heritage of the Uzbek traditional textiles.
In order to determine the nominees and winners of the Quality Certificates, UNESCO has formed a jury from the leading scientists, specialists, designers and managers in the field of traditional crafts and design. It was decided to award the Quality Certificates in two categories – traditional textiles and design. During the months of July and August, the members of the jury looked through more than 50 applications submitted from different regions of Uzbekistan on such fields of art like traditional embroidery, carpet weaving and handmade production of artistic fabrics. The selection criteria for awarding the Certificates were such factors as adherence to local traditions, the development of authentic creative artistic and technological methods, and environmentally friendly products. Criteria for selection of designers’ works differed, creative innovation and the search that meets modern requirements were also taken in consideration along with the principle of reflection of traditional textiles in the designer’s works. After extensive discussions and disputes, the members of the jury have selected nine candidates out of the masters in the field of traditional textiles, and four designers who use traditional motifs, materials and techniques in their creations.
On September 12, during the ceremony of closing of the Festival the Quality Certificates of UNESCO on traditional crafts have been awarded to the following craftsmen: Rasul Mirzaakhmedov (Margilan), Mavluda Narzullaeva (Gijduvan), Alisher Ahmadaliev (Margilan), Fazlitdin Dadajanov (Margilan), Altinay Naumbetova (Karakalpakstan), Alim Aripov (Baysun), Hanifa Salimova (Baysun), Gulnara Embergenova (Karakalpakstan), Madina Kasymbaeva (Tashkent). Certificates in the category of design have been awarded to Marhamat Umarova (Tashkent), Alexandra Chichinova (Tashkent), Elena Ladik (Samarqand), Hilola Shermatova (Tashkent).
After awarding the UNESCO Certificates of Quality there was a fashion defile showing the traditional textiles by leading Uzbek designers. The climax of the show was a colorful defile of the collection by Bibi Russell, who appreciated the significance and organization level of the Festival and shared her intentions to continue cooperation with the Uzbek textile masters and come to Uzbekistan next year to work on her new collection.
It should be noted that conduction of such Festivals has a great importance in support and promotion of the efforts of the artists and designers aimed at the preservation and revival of Uzbek textiles, improving the quality and design of handicraft products, the desire to adapt the traditional textiles to modern aesthetic requirements and spiritual demands of society.