Of all regions in the world, westerners seem to be least informed about Central Asia. How many of you can point out Tajikistan on a world map? And who knows the name of its capital?
Having lived in Dushanbe for a little longer than three months I truly believe that the region and the country deserve better. Tajikistan has beautiful nature and a very unique culture. The following three stories will give you a glimpse of how live is in this interesting but often overlooked country.
Farrukh holds his grandson. The baby looks happy, healthy. He is wearing warm tights and tries to wave at us. “Come in, my friends!” Farrukh welcomes us to his home in the center of Dushanbe; a modest white bungalow with a garden full of fruits.
Everywhere we look we see branches with grapes, persimmons, and a lost banana tree. He brings us to his basement, his atelier, where we find many of his paintings from different periods of his life.
Farrukh Negmatzade is one of Tajikistan’s most famous painters. You will find his art everywhere you go in Dushanbe, whether it is a hotel or a bank. Tajiks are proud of Negmatzade’s style. His art is full of colors, beautiful women, and mountainous landscapes. It represents Tajik’s life, which can be hard sometimes but is filled with traditions and culture.
Farrukh was sent to a prestigious art school in Moscow at a young age. There he learned different techniques and precision. A fine combination of his soviet education and Tajik lifestyle can be found back in his art. Because his main inspiration is his people. “Tajiks are strong”, says Farrukh, “they survive wars, oppression and cold weather.” With his paintings Farrukh wants to show people what life in Tajikistan is about.
Farrukh’s art looks very modern to me. His paintings are imaginative, with elegant men and women scratched from sharp, simple lines. He could be an incredible trendy hipster artist in Berlin or New York but lives an ordinary family life in the heart of Tajikistan – famous among his people, undiscovered in other parts of the world.
You can find a sample of Farrukh’s paintings at: http://www.iphoneogram.com/u/173737868
Various other forms of colourful art can be found in Tajikistan. While other Central Asian countries are better known for it, Tajikistan offers some beautiful hand made carpets. Most of them are not made in the capital but in the north or eastern part of the country. If you are not an expert it can be difficult to figure out whether they are hand woven or not, so if you want to buy one always make sure you are well informed or accompanied by a knowledgeable local.
Other popular arty objects are the bright suzani textiles, which traditionally were used as wedding presents but are now also a popular souvenir that can work as wall decoration or bed coverings. Additionally, you can find ceramics and all kind of vases. But the most impressive and recognizable Tajik art (besides the paintings) is its traditional clothing. As soon as you arrive in Dushanbe you can see women on the street with flamboyant dresses and high heels.
The typical Tajik dress is wide and reaches until the knees, worn over trousers. Usually they are made of a special fabric, called atlas. Atlas is normally (partly) made out of silk, which makes it very delicate and elegant, but difficult to wash. The colors used on these dresses are mostly very bright, like yellow, purple, and green, with a glittery touch.
Just as Farrukh’s paintings, I could imagine this fabric to be very trendy and popular in the west but as a westerner I had never seen it before coming to Tajikistan. Therefore, a fun thing to do is to buy some atlas and design your own clothing. If you have your atlas and a clear design for the dress of your dreams, you could go to one of the many tailors in Dushanbe and they will make it for you – not expensive and very original.
Part II of this amazing tale is coming pretty soon!