Issue #2 • 1943

“Naghys tikken on barmaghy
zerger tarktan sym yaildy”
(fingers of embroiderers are similar
to flexible wire skilful jeweler).
Karakalpak folk song

Kiymeshek is essential ritual attribute of the Karakalpak women’s dressing in the dowry set. After “kok keilek” – a ceremonial dark blue dress of a Karakalpak woman, “kiymeshek” – a chest-head cloth is also included in a group of “symbolic” things having a informative meaning. Scientific researches of this, rather ciphered in the ornamental aspect, cloth do not allow to reveal fully its semantic purpose. Probably, we shall receive the answer to this question in the future if preserves “the time joint”.

In this article we are giving just the general description of kiymeshek, without which till the 30s of the 20th century it was impossible even to imagine the entire set of Karakalpak woman’s dressing. It was embroidered by the girl before wedding in her parents’ house and put on for the first time in a day of her arrival at aul of her future husband. Women from aul helped to the bride to dress kiymeshek before an entrance to the groom’s yurt and gave her good words for a new life. It was used to keep kiymeshek for all life in order not to became a sinner (“namaz buiyrmaidy”).

The original cut and general view of traditional kiymeshek, spread out on a plane, reminds by a form a sitting bird with the opened wings (fig. 1). 3 its basic parts – a front (“kiymeshek aldy”), shoulder (“iyil kara”) and back (“kuiruksha” – a tail) are subordinated to this form. Sleeveless cape covered all top part of woman body: a head, shoulders, a back, a breast, hands, that is those parts of a body which, according to cosmogonic ideas of the ancient people, are related to spheres of the Earth surface and the upper World (fig. 2) (1, p. 223). Probably, that similar capes with bibs were put on the ancient Sogdian women, what is proved by the statuettes of women in the clothes reminding kiymesheks found by the archeologists.

A.E.Rossikova who visited Karakalpakstan in the early 20th century described this original chest-head dressing: ” … in all solemn occasions they (the Karakalpak women) put on a cap known as “kimishekeste”. It is sewed as follows: from any fabric is cut out the rectangular triangle, in which middle is made a round hole in size equal to a face of an adult person. The hole is edged by a border and all blank space around it are embroidered by multi – coloured silks, and embroidery is completely similar to embroidery of the Ukrainians in the smallest cross-stitches, but patterns of this embroidery have nothing common with Russian or Ukrainian. A big silk Bukhara shawl by two edges is sewn up to the triangle., so that the corner of a shawl was exactly on the angle of the triangle: free ends the shawl falls on a back up to the floor. Occurs something reminding Caucasian bashlik. Kimishekeste is put on a head, hiding a breast in front; open remains only a face thanks to a special hole cut.” (2, p. 280 – 289).

To the said above it can be added that Bukhara silk with abre pattern (“padshoi”) was used as a back cape only for ” kzyl (red) kiymesheks”, worn by young women. Becoming traditional, it was almost always identical on design and a color set: red – green – yellow. To the edges of a cape was sewn up richly embroidered border ” kiymeshek kuiryk ” (fig. 3).

The old women wore similar in design breed, but more modest in color “ak (white) kiymeshek” from the cotton fabric, specially made for them by daughter – in – law (fig. 4). The breast part of “kzyl kiymeshek” consisted of the cloth red isosceles triangle truncated from above. It was called “kiymeshek aldy” (fig. 5). The surface of kiymeshek was covered with rich tambour embroidery with elements of vegetative, zoomorphic and geometrical ornaments, and also as the stylized household subjects. The most spread were S-shaped elements, horn – shaped motives, Greek crosses with elements of trefoils on the ends, stair – step squares and rhombuses with shoots on external edges. Patterns “koraly gul” (a flower fenced), “erik gul” (a flower of dried apricots), “tuie taban” (the camel trace) were used frequently enough in ornaments on kzyl kiymesheks. The motive “muyiz” (horns) – an ancient symbol of cattle breeding tribes was applied in borders of this kind of clothes. Vertical and horizontal patten strips “kiymeshek oldy” organically supplemented each other and made one complex composition, in which center was the black horizontal insert from cloth – “orta kora” (4 – 6 sm in width), its edges located as trapeze were directed upwards and followed a line of the general cut. Bottom and side edges were framed by “shetteghi kara” – a black narrow strip with one or two lines of ornaments. Kzyl kiymeshek, most likely, was connected with a cult of fertility and played protective function for women during the genital period. The front part of ak kiymeshek (ak kiymeshek aldy) was embroidered with the vertical ornamental strips of cross – stitches.

The Karakalpak mistresses owned various techniques of embroidery. Depending on its type were selected the certain seams (“ilme”, ” jona tgis “, “kurtaryl tgys”), ornamental images and patterns (“omyrtka”, “koi tys”, “garga tuyak”, “syrga” and others). It was original apotheosis of skills and secrets of national embroidery, which the girl had studied by 14 – 16. Each kiymeshek is especially individual designing of the future wedding dressing created by a thread and needle.

The images arising in imagination of the Karakalpak mistresses, were, certainly, connected with actually existing subjects. Stylized in embroidery, they, on the one hand, carried out a role of protection and have been connected with religious – magic concepts, and, on the other hand, they had independent aesthetic function.

Having acquainted with many samples of such unique cloth as kiymeshek, it is necessary to note, that at all art originality of the Karakalpak embroidery is traced a parallel with ornaments of the Turkmen, Khorezmians, Bashkirs, Chuvashs, Mari and even with art motives of the peoples loving in Western and Eastern Siberia (fig. 6 – 7). G.I.Solovieva marks: “Language of an ornament is easier for understanding and acquiring, than unfamiliar speech, and it has determined penetration of ornaments from one people to another”. At the same time, kiymeshek is absolutely unique phenomenon, occurring in steppes of Priaralia – “the territory of ethnogenesis of the Karakalpaks ” (4, p. 493). Unfortunately going out of use, kiymeshek remains a unique sample of motives, variety of compositional solutions and treasury of colour combinations performed by talented mistresses of Karakalpakstan.

Author: Irina Bogoslovskaya

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