From the Asian Orchards

‘Suzani’ 

Noun: (plural suzanis)

An embroidered tapestry from several central Asian countries

Origin: Persian سوزنی  (suzani, ‘of or pertaining to needle’)

Originating from the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is what most people are aware of. But the very root of the art resides in Ferghana Valley and spread across from there. Suzani is yet again having their moments in the Sun! While the origins date back to the 18th century or maybe even more, these hand-embroidered textiles are digging up a place in the heart of many modern bohemians and calling for a resurgence of sorts. 

So what exactly is Suzani you ask? As per the common tradition, Suzani is a type of hand-embroidered decorative textile panel native to Central Asian countries as we have mentioned before. The Persian for the word is ‘Suzan’ which means ‘needle’ and ‘suzanikari’ meaning needlework. The history of the textile talks about how these hand-embroidered pieces tell the story of a mother’s love for her daughter, and are laboriously created for her daughter’s dowry for her wedding day to bring well being into her marital future. When the same daughter was old enough, she would be taught the art and secrets of the art of embroidery, and eventually she would set out to create her own dowry pieces which she would then present them to her groom and his family on her wedding day. As she grew up, her dreams could be seen woven, embroidered and captured so beautifully well in these fabrics, and the richer, the more intricate and colourful the work was, the higher the woman would end up earning esteem and respect in her new husband’s family and her community. 

This way, each suzani has a new story to tell, a story and emotion only the maker knows of, the sentiments that are close to and known by not more than one woman. Each story is as rich and colourful as the designs infused with character that only comes from everyday use, or so to say, transforms as beautifully as the girl transforms into a woman. 

These dowry pieces formed part of the wedding ceremony as canopies and head dresses and hence clearly were considered of great importance. It was much later that these beatific textiles became important adornments in the wedding and later on in the new home of the couple. 

These lovely large textiles were names suzani particularly because of the many hundreds of hours and days of intricate needle work and determination it took to produce one single product of enchanting masterpiece. While there are common motifs and patterns in various central Asian countries that still practice the art with a little bit of deviation, each region in Uzbekistan- Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Ferghana and other- has had their own patterns and designs. 

Talking about the art and its fabric, Suzani was usually embroidered on cotton and silk sometimes, using cotton or silk threads in motifs that were quite popular and prominent in and around the central Asian countries. The most popular ones include the Sun and the Moon disks, tulips, carnations, irises, vines, leaves and fruits, often pomegranate came under the botanical category, moving on to more lively creatures like fish and birds. 

There was a belief all along the years since Suzani came into being, that magic forces were being embroidered into the patterns, which were considered to be talismanic, protective and known to be well wishing messages contained within the patterns. This was due to the belief that the newly weds needed extra protection from the evil eye during the first forty days of their marital life. So, while there were dreams on the young girl woven intricately, the motifs and patterns were chosen in such a way that each Suzani motifs depicted either joy, fertility, long life, prosperity, fruitfulness, good health, hospitality and so one, thus keeping the evil at bay from the newlyweds and their homes. 

In other regions of Uzbekistan, where almost every region has their own motifs and patterns, astral and solar symbols predominate in Tashkent and Samarkand, and have their roots and inspirations from their ancient way of life, which was solely nomadic. The artisans, whether men, women or young girls, believed that using these astral patterns provided the much needed heaven’s protection. 

Enter the 20th century, during the period of Soviet rule as well during the Industrial Revolution, the traditional making of Suzani came to a stoppage.This was so because the artisans were expected to create and reflect the soviet symbols instead of the age old continued patterns and motifs.  And so, it was a moment to celebrate when during the end of the 20th century, around the 90’s, when Uzbekistan gained independence, the wondrous craft came back to life. 

But even while the art has been blooming over the years and quite recently been adopted as a tribute by many new-age brands to revive it, there is still a huge threat to its survival because of the machine made synthetic copies and substitutes of the Suzani art and sold at throwaway prices to tourists who hardly have a knowledge of the exclusivity and the pricelessness of the art. This makes the real hand embroidered pieces seem too ‘expensive’, which the tourists don’t prefer. The ever rising cost of raw silk and cotton also has a huge impact on the survival of this noble craft.  

Over the years the use and application of work has been modified by the brands picking up the art form. And with the rise of the ‘Bohemian’ culture around the world, one can now see more colourways of Suzani. The book ‘The New Bohemians’, handy for the art, the rich dark suzanis are a must-have in the world of Boho Maximalism. The current new-age suzani of modern times, is more towards a refined version of eclecticism, something which results after a beautiful amalgamation of traditional designs and modern bohemian explorer aspects. These Suzani pieces are now being used by many as parts of clothing, wall hangings, drapes, bed covers, upholstery and much more. 

Vajor pays a similar tribute to the Suzani art in our latest collection, ‘Asian Orchards’, that embodies the character of the original character of the art, in a magical language of motifs and colours. These garments display printed motifs taken from the ancient textile art. The silhouettes are travel friendly with visages that exhibit quirky motifs with little embroidered surprises. It is designed keeping in mind holiday travel to exotic destinations and looking your vibrant best. 

Check out the collection here

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