In the heart of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan’s snowy mountain passes were once a part of the Silk Road, and for most of the 20th century, a part of the sprawling USSR. When the Soviet Union and its systemic cultural repression collapsed in 1991, Aidai Asangulova was 13.
Aidai is part of the first generation that is reinterpreting Kyrgyz culture, memory, and identity for the modern world. Digging deeply into ethnographic research, interviewing elders all around the country about dying techniques, and bringing a fresh imagination to them . . . that is the work of this accomplished designer.
I met Aidai Asangulova at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market 4 years ago, wearing the traditional head wrap of her region. Aidai was born to a family of yurt makers; felt-making has always been part of her life. When she later began her work as an artist in the capital city of Bishkek, she developed unique techniques, building on her research.
Aidai’s work benefits not only the sheep growers and silk weavers, but also the women of her native village, where she is investing a portion of her earnings toward the creation of a women’s cooperative and a shop for the sale of hand-crafted goods made by women in her region. Cultural pride (and income!) reinvigorates the women who have long carried this language of felt, one of the oldest of all textiles.
What to do when I saw her holey shawls in graphic black and white? I know quite a few of you who will need these, I mused. But, along with Charlotte Moss, I wondered, why not dabble in some other colors for the winter? Charlotte chose a beautiful gray and also sable color to complement her collection. I love them all!
Aidai is working with Ibu to develop new clothing as unique as these shawls. The secrets of the Silk Road might wrap your neck for the rest of these winter months, should you fall for the holes. The recent bomb cyclone pasting the East Coast has already frozen the pipes in my house, and we have yet to enjoy the Polar Vortex:) Holey Smoke! Wrap me up in some of this warm.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker