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Turkmen and Uzbek Children’s Clothes

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Guest Blog post by Rachel McIntyre of The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin. Gallery 2 is a small and intimate space, often dedicated to low-key exhibitions of craft, textiles, and outsider art. Stepping into the current show of children’s clothes from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, one is greeted with an abundance of colour, texture, and pattern. A sense of life and warmth emanates from these little garments, all of which date from the early to late 20th century. They are clearly hand-made and show signs of wear; some are even very faintly stained. There is no mistaking that they have seen years of use. DSCF7540 Until recently in these Central Asian countries very small children wore ‘kurtes’, vest-like garments that were paired with ‘kirliks’, similar to bibs. The hems of the kurtes are raw and unfinished, a deliberate and poignant design feature that expressed the hope that the baby would thrive and that the family would continue to grow. installation_photograph The garments are adorned with an array of protective talismans, meant to ward off harm. Soviet 10-kopek coins, dating from 1925 to 1950, decorate one vest; many others are covered with bright buttons, beads, or ‘doga’, triangles of cloth of varying size, carefully hand-stitched. On some, embroidery acts as a shielding charm. One striking ‘kirlik’, bordered with tiny triangles like sunrays, is stitched with a defensive motif of ram’s horns. DSCF7545 Once children reached the age of five or so, they dressed in robes, in a similar manner to adults. More common in these is the use of luxury fabrics such as ikat, silk, or velvet. Still, they too had defensive or protective features, such as the carefully applied woven or braided trims, which served to keep out evil spirits. DSCF7547 It’s easy to disregard the depth of care and attention essential to looking after children. Such labour, like many other forms of work not driven by profit, is often invisible and under-appreciated. So close to us all that it almost disappears, it is a poignant and unusual experience to see the depth of a mother’s love expressed physically in material means, particularly within the setting of a contemporary art gallery. The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin Turkmen and Uzbek Children’s Clothes Gallery 2 – May 20 – July 27, 2016


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  • susan meller on

    Rachel, nicely written post – you did these little garments justice. Your last line really summed up the exhibition.


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