chapter  28
The beautiful and the blessed
Brightness, balance and bones in Kyrgyz shyrdak felt
ByStephanie Bunn
Pages 15

Kyrgyz shyrdak is a special kind of cut-out mosaic felt textile. Such Central Asian felts have long been made by women in the region as floor coverings, wall hangings or tent decorations, as dowry gifts, for the home and as presents for relatives. Shyrdak is a technique and style of making felt textile floor coverings and other homely artefacts which entail simultaneously cutting out two identical motifs from pre-dyed felts of different colour, inserting one motif into the background left by the other, then sewing them together and rhythmically outlining the pattern edge with quilting and cord. Kyrgyz notions of beauty are encapsulated by the terms sulu'u, which is usually only used when referring to women, and kork, which denotes beauty, elegance and grace, and is more often used when describing felt. The question of balance, when coupled with the animate imagery in Kyrgyz shyrdak pattern, resonates with the complex relationship of Central Asian herders and their environment.