Exuberant clothes were a common sight in the oasis cities of Central Asia. During the 19th century, patrons wore rich colors and mysterious designs on a daily basis. Their encouragement led to a flourishing use of ikat, a labor intensive process that requires many stages and layers of experience to complete. Positioned as a trading center where goods and people flowed in from India, China, Iran and Russia, Central Asia fostered an aesthetic that made the most of overlapping influences.
This exhibition will recreate a sense of walking into a crowd of cosmopolitan clients who wear robes of distinctive boldness. As an English visitor (William Eleroy Curtis) wrote in 1911: “Everybody wears a coat like a rainbow… No matter how humble or hungry a man may be, and even if he has but a single garment, it is made of the most brilliantly colored material he can find.” Over 40 robes will provide a vision of the oasis crowd. Some feature sharp graphic designs of rigorous abstraction, but others favor delicate harmonies with flowing floral motifs. Scorpions and Arabic script, paisleys and European florals, jeweled tassels and cypress trees swirl together in a design pool that reflects oasis life.
—Pam McClusky, Curator of Art of Africa and Oceania
To explore this exhibition a little deeper, download our bibliography. Teachers, integrate Colors of the Oasis into your classroom with our Colors of the Oasis Educator Resource List.
This exhibition was on loan from The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. Exhibition sponsor was MIR Corporation.
Young Adult’s Robe, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara, 1870s (?), silk warp, cotton weft; warp-faced plain weave, The Textile Museum, 2005.36.144, The Megalli Collection, Photo by Renée Comet