In the system of national cultural values traditional art crafts of Uzbekistan take an important place. They passed a long evolutionary way before gained the elements of artistry, at different historical stages sometimes rising on the highest level, and sometimes experiencing stagnation and decline, burying in eternal or temporary oblivion their achievements, and then again achieving fame and power of professional blossoming.
Now due to tendencies of independent development in Uzbekistan the process of revival of national cultural values, comprehension of national culture and its identity in art has been actualized. Recurrence of true history and identity became one of the priority directions of our country’s state policy.
According to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. Karimov “About measures on development of national art crafts and applied art” dated on March 31, 1997 all handicraftsmen were exempted from taxes and customs duties that became important economic incentive for development of this form of art.
During twenty five years of independent development of the country numerous centers of crafts in all its areas were opened, preferential terms for masters who revived disappeared types of traditional art craft, its local centers and schools were created. The traditional system of training “usto-shogird” was renewed and 470 “usto-shogird” schools have been opened at which many young men and girls are trained. In order to stimulate and increase the handicraftsmen’s status the honorary title “People’s master of the Republic of Uzbekistan” was founded which has already been awarded to more than 20 masters of Uzbekistan.
In restoration of numerous unique monuments of architecture of Uzbekistan, which has the ancient civilization and culture, as well as in decoration of such modern objects as the State Museum of History of the Temurids, the Gallery of Fine Arts of Uzbekistan, the Palace of Creativity of Youth and other architectural constructions differing in grace and bright beauty an important place is taken by ganch carving executed by the modern masters who continue artistic traditions of various schools, including Z. Yusupov, U. Takhirov, M. Karimov, H. Abdullaev, A. Suleymanov, M. Usmanov, A. Pulatov, M. Rakhmatov, H. Muradov, M. Sultanov, F. Hamdamov, A. Samadov, R. Ibadov, Yu. Odilov, B. Bobomuradov, A. Nazhmiyev, A. Goyibov, B. Yakubov, O. Babadzhanov, O. Yakubov, etc.
Art painting nakkoshlik is also widespread type of national arts and crafts of Uzbekistan. Art traditions of ornamental painting of Uzbekistan include harmonious combination of character of ornamental decor with the material, form and purposes of the decorated object. The ornamental painting on ganch and wood remains the most leading type of national arts and crafts of Uzbekistan. Among its famous masters who continue and improve traditions of local schools, there are A. Ilkhamov, C. Khakimov, R. Shayakubov, A. Akparov, A. Mukhitdinov, A. Khusainov, M. Khusainov, M. Eraliev, R. Zakhidov, Z. Saliev, O. Yakubov, E. Sapaev, etc.
Art of woodcarving, being a part of Central Asian art heritage, goes back to ancient times. It incorporates a wide range of items – from furniture to small house utensils. Modern masters of woodcarving use local wood species: plane tree, elm, walnut, juniper, mulberry, apricots, poplar, cottonwood, pear tree, quince tree, Russian olive, which differ in the variety of texture and pattern. Ornamental carving, painting and incrustation are used in decoration of household items, furniture and musical instruments.
Modern Uzbek masters of woodcarving in Tashkent, Khorezm, Samarkand, Bukhara, Kokand and Andijan retain and develop the best traditions of this type of craft. O. Fayzullayev, A. Azlarov, S. Rakhmatullayev, G. Yuldashev, A. Abdurakhmanov, B. Ganiyev, Z. Isamukhamedov, M. Asadov, N. Sakhibnazarov, F. Dzhumanazarov, etc. are worthy successors of Uzbek traditional woodcarving.
One of the most ancient types of art craft of the Uzbek people is the traditional ceramics which has passed a long and difficult way of development, periods of blossoming and decline of local centers, enrichments and changes of art tradition. The city of Rishtan in the Fergana Valley is one of the centers of white-blue ceramics in Uzbekistan. The important place in technology of products is taken by traditional land-alkaline transparent glaze which figurative effect is amplified by means of alkaline glaze. The range of pottery of Rishtan is shokasa, dukki kasa, miena tovok, norin tovok, lyagans, and vases. Ornamental motives of Rishtan’s ceramic products include floral and geometrical patterns, as well as motives of material world. Traditions of white-blue ceramics are also preserved in such centers of our country as Gurumsaray, Andijan, and Khorezm. Products of Khorezm masters of ceramics are unique because of the specific ornamental motives, which are related to the ornament of medieval monuments of Khiva.
Typical model of production of yellowy-brown ceramics is Gizhduvan, which also preserves specifics of manufacturing technology of pottery using lead glaze, which thick layer strengthens brightness and richness of paints. When glazing the majority of subglaze paints merge, and contours become fuzzy. That is why Gijduvan products have beautiful ornamentation originality.
Works of modern Samarkand ceramists are distinguished by the common style consisting of such components as mostly small forms of traditional products, specific color, and system of varied graphic and ornamental motives. This style allows us to speak about development of traditional Samarkand ceramics as one of the directions of this local school, because along with this direction a non-glazed terracotta ceramics also develops.
Among unique master-ceramists of the republic there are A. and A. Rakhimovs (Tashkent), Sh. Yusupov, A. Nazirov, R. Usmanov (Rishtan), M. Abduvakhobov (Andijan), V. Buvayev (Gurumsaraj), A. and A. Nazrulayevs (Gizhduvan), N. Ablakulov (Urgut), O. Matchanov (Khorezm), Sh. Azimov, H. Ismatullayev (Samarkand), etc.
Small plastic or folk toy, in the origin goes back to a modelled toy and coroplastic of Central Asia of the era of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Throughout the millennia it embodied images and motives of myths, legends, folklore of peoples in the region. One of local schools of folk toy of Uzbekistan of the XX century is Uba village near Vabkent city in Bukhara region. For a long time this school was presented by toys of such famous masters as F. Sagdullayev and H. Rakhimova whose traditions are continued now by a mistress K. Babayeva.
The art of small plastic is continued by the Samarkand school of masters founded by the famous master U. Dzhurakulov, whose creative searches are developed and improved by his disciples. Terracotta toys of H. Khakberdyev, decorative compositions of Samarkand master-ceramists of the third generation – Z and I. Mukhtarovs, I. Wahidi, J. Egamberdyev, etc. are interesting. They not only preserve the art principles of masters of the previous generation, but also expand the thematic range.
One of the types of folk art preserving traditions of Muslim art is an embossing art, which bright modern representative M. Madaliyev demonstrates traditions of Margilan stamping. Traditions of embossing art of the Fergana Valley have been preserved by such masters as K. Fozilov, R. Mirzaakhmedov, S. Akhmadaliyev, Z. Gafurov, and the Bukhara school – by disciples of the famous master Salimdzhon Khamidov D. Khalimova, G. Rakhmatova, U. Aliyev, S. Mukhsinov, T. Kasymov, M. Akhmedov, and R. Ruziev.
A small peculiar branch of artistic processing of metal in Uzbekistan is an art of production of knives with pointed blade, which is sheathed in a leather case decorated with metal plates, embroidery, application and painting. Such knives are called “guldor pichok” – an elegant, decorated knife. Among the ancient centers for production of artistic knives are Chust in the Fergana Valley and Khiva in Khorezm.
Many forgotten traditions of jewelry art of Uzbekistan which modern centers are in such cities as Tashkent, Margilan, Samarkand, Bukhara, Surkhandarya have been revived during the years of independence. Their master-jewelers revive the artistic traditions of jewelry art of Central Asia of the XIX-XX centuries fixed in various local schools. Beauty and richness of forms of traditional jewelry of Central Asia which have reached us from time immemorial helps to work in the traditional direction to such modern master-jewelers as F. and M. Dadamukhamedovs, F. Talipov, G. Yuldasheva (Tashkent), Kh. and Ya. Abduzhabbarovs (Margilan), mistress A. Akhmedova (Kokand), M. Magrupov, Sh. Ruzimuradov, B. Khaydarov (Samarkand), etc. who own various techniques, such as: filigree, embossing, forging, granulation, niello, gilding, twisting, molding, engraving, and bosma.
Processes of revival and development of traditional culture, increase of the social status of folk masters in the period of independence have found a peculiar reflection also in manual weaving of Margilan which modern weavers produce fabrics of 42-65 cm wide, trying to get closer at least to the samples of the early XX century. In modern abr fabrics of Margilan masters use such dyes as “anor pusti” (pomegranate peel), “tukhumak” (flowers of Sophora Japonica), “ruyan” (madder), as well as peel of onions and walnut. At the same time the colors derived from natural and synthetic dyes vary within wide range and combinations.
In ornamental and decorative design of modern Margilan fabrics traditional motives of the XVIII-XIX centuries (“taroq” – a comb, “uroq” – sickle, “kosa-gul” – a bowl pattern, “nogora” – drum, “chakrim” – an echo, “ilon iz” – snake trail, “shoti kapa” – lancet pattern) and such new graphic motives as “Hosiyatkhon”, “Gulnora”, “Bakhor”, “Mustakillik”, “Amir Temur”, “Navruz Kapalagi” – “Butterfly of Navruz”, “Kremlin”, “Galaba” – “Victory”, “Fargona darvozasi” – “Fergana gate” are used. Modern masters of Margilan use traditions of manual weaving of not only the Fergana Valley school, but also Bukhara and Samarkand schools.
Among masters of manual weaving of modern Uzbekistan there is a creative team of “Edgorlik” enterprise. These are such masters as D. Umaraliyev and R. Mirzaakhmedov in Margilan, K. Akhrarov, S. Ikramov, B. Turgunov, S. Tukhtabaev in Namangan, etc.
The traditional embroidery of Uzbekistan, which has many centuries old history, is one of the most popular types of art craft. Among the modern skilled workers keeping ancient traditions of embroidery local schools there are M. Kasymbayeva (Tashkent), A. Nurumbetova, B. Abdurazzakova, R. Atamuratova (Nukus), G. Saryeva, G. Adylova (Shakhrisabz), Z. Abloberdyeva (Bukhara region), D. Narzullayeva (Gizhduvan), R. Turakulova (Navoiy), F. Sajdullayeva (Urgench), etc.
A commonly used form of traditional embroidery in the years of independence is gold embroidery which, in addition to historically developed center in Bukhara, actively develops in many other cities of the republic. Traditions of this art form are preserved and continued by such masters as B. Dzhumayev (Bukhara), H. Inoyatova (Samarkand), G. Primkulova (Qarshi), etc.
The peoples inhabiting the present territory of Uzbekistan were engaged in production of printed fabrics. In days of independence Abdurashid Rakhimov, a descendant of Bukhara masters in the fifth generation, has revived art of multi-color printed cloth. A bit later production of printed cloth under ancient technology has been resumed in Samarkand, Margilan and Andijan. One of the modern masters of printed cloth is Malika Khabibova (Bukhara).
Initially carpet weaving of Uzbekistan was determined by cattle breeding type of economy concentrated in remote from cities areas. Traditions of nomadic culture created its specific poetics which is shown in geometrized art style, astral system, totemic and zoomorphic motives.
The modern Kashkadarya carpet-makers, who preserve traditions of the local center, are S. Kuldosheva, O. Muminova, K. Batyrova, O. Intikova and B. Luliyeva. Traditionally they produce oriental carpets Arabi, and more rare – patterned oriental carpets kiz gilyam, hurdzhins, and small sacks, using at the same time such techniques as usual weaving, oriental carpet weaving – kokhma, patterned weaving – terma, gadzhari, and pile weaving.
Manufacturing of dolls is practically almost revived types of crafts. Dressed in national suits, they became a traditional Uzbek souvenir which can be used as an interesting, bright detail of an interior. Famous masters of dolls are M. Kuryazov (Khorezm), mistress M. Allabergenova (Karakalpakstan), N. Akhmedova (Tashkent), etc.
The association of handicraftsmen “Meros” headed by the famous master Z. Mukhtarov has revived ancient art of production of the Samarkand silk paper which is manufactured in Koni Chil village of Samarkand region. A water-mill of “Meros” Association is constructed on the place where 300 years ago the Samarkand silk paper was produced.
At the present stage of development of Uzbekistan the art of miniature became an artistic and stylistic direction incorporating a lacquer miniature, wall painting, miniature on paper, fabric and leather.
In decorating of products made of papier-mache there are two tendencies: ornamental-decorative and graphic on the basis of traditions of medieval miniature. Thus, ornamental compositions of N. Tsoi, I. Askarkhodzhayev, E. Saidaliyev, Z. Khakimov, R. Tokhtayev and A. Yuldashev are based on combinations of stylized geometrical and floral ornament, representing stylistic unity with ornamental painting at dominating tendency of graphic beginning.
For twenty five years in the Uzbek miniature painting thematic preferences have been defined and the circle of artists has extended. The first wave of miniature painters (Sh. Mukhamedzhanov, N. Kholmatov, G. Kamolov, T. Baltabayev, A. Yuldashev, etc.) mostly preferred to illustrate specific literary plots of classical poetry of the East and the Uzbek folk fairy tales (“Gazelles”, the poem “Farkhad and Shirin”, “Leyli and Medzhnun” by A. Navoi, “Shah-name” by Firdousi, etc.). Miniature painters of so called “the second wave” (B. Yuldashev, U. Kasymov, F. Rakhmatullayev, Sh. Shoakhmedov, M. Pulatov, etc.) addressing to literary medieval sources, nevertheless give preference to creation of free compositions based on their motives even in absence of “binding” to the specific literary plot, keeping stylistics of medieval miniature, its images and motifs.
The Uzbek traditional musical instruments in manufacturing of which a big role is played by the right choice of wood (plane tree, mulberry, walnut, apricot tree) are famous for the ancient history. Ancient traditions of manufacturing and decoration of musical instruments are kept by the modern masters A. Madraimov and A. Otarbayev.
It is important to note that traditional crafts of Uzbekistan are “living heritage” functioning in the life of modern society. This heritage owes to specific masters who preserve the national art from generation to generation, caring out “transmission of art experience”. The enormous experience of revival, preservation and development of traditional art crafts in Uzbekistan which is accumulated over twenty five years of independence can serve as a striking example for the countries of near and far abroad.