Homecoming: Crimean Tatar Folk Artistry
Artists are the pillar that hold Crimean Tatar life together.
Tatar rites of passage and tradition rely on handmade objects created by artisans. Traditionally, when a Tatar girl gets married, the family presents up to four hundred hand-embroidered objects ranging from purses and fezes, to rugs and tapestries to the family of the groom. Gifts can also include ceramic dishes, metal belts, and filigree jewelry. Many of these practices are passed down from grandmothers to daughters. To viewers outside of the Islamic world, these handmade objects may seem merely ornate and decorative. To a Crimean Tatar, these everyday objects contain meaningful symbols that tell stories of resilience that come hand-in-hand with a deep understanding of the technique and pure skill that goes into each and every piece.
Crimean Tatar culture relies on this artistry. They are one of the oldest societies in the world with roots in the Neolithic period. You can see influences of Crimean Tatar art in Scythian Turkic, Byzantium, and Ottomman art. These practices thrived in the Crimean Khanate from the mid 15th century to the 18th century. Stalin-era deportations uprooted the entire community and attempted to destroy many of the folk art practices along with the artists that took pride in their work. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a mass influx of Crimean Tatars back to their homeland have revived interest in folk arts. They are possible with arts initiatives like the Crimean Style Project, new workshops, and renewed interest from younger Tatars. A new generation of artists are returning to their roots and reviving old traditions.
This exhibit contains the work of five Tatar artists currently based in Bakhchysarai, the old capital of the Crimean khanate: Safiye Abduramanova, Gulnara Nehlynadenko, Khatidzhe Yunosova. Esma Osman, and Mamut Churlu. All works are for sale, unless otherwise stated, and all sales inquiries go directly to the artist. Support folk artists to appreciate the legacy of these long-lasting traditions!
This exhibit was curated by Katherine Leung, February 2021.
We lost a lot when the indigenous people of Crimea were deported in 1944. Most of our folk culture and art was associated with the creation of household items. It wasn’t until a mass return in the 1990’s were repatriates able to revive their lost craft. It’s not the sole work of myself, but the efforts of so many young artisans who are bringing this lost art back.
Read the Lossi 36 exclusive interview with Mamut Churlu.
Gulnara Neglyаdyenko is originally from Kokand, Uzbekistan. A graduate of Kokand State School of the Arts, Gulnara was a graphic designer until she returned to Crimea in 1990. She studied traditional Tatar gold-thread embroidery at Marama Creative Association. She is currently an art teacher at the Old Crimean National School. She has been a member of the National Union of Artists of Russia (Ukraine) since 2013. All sales inquiries can be directed to Gulanara through email.
My favorite childhood memories center around my grandmother’s sewing machine. She was a native of Simeiz, a small town by the sea in Crimea. The machine sat on a table. Whenever my grandmother opened the door to the sewing machine, it was like a neverending wonderland stored inside of a fabulous treasure chest. There would be heaps of fabrics of various colors and shapes, mountains of buttons, and meters upon meters of ribbon. In that room, time just stopped. My Natasha doll always had a new outfit. My grandmother taught me how to sew, cross-stitch, and knit. My mother taught me how to knit and crochet. I always did well at creativity competitions at school, thanks to everything my grandmother and mother taught me.
Safiye Abduramanova and her family moved to Bakhchysarai in 1995. She is a historian and senior researcher at the Crimean Tatar Museum of History and Culture. She learned myklama gold-thread sewing under Zarema Mustafayeva at the Arslan Youth Center in 2015, followed by Tatar ishlem sewing courses under Elvira Osmanova. She has published numerous articles and is currently working on a book that catalogs Tatar gold embroidery. All sales inquiries can be directed to Safiye through Facebook.
Esma Osman was born in Andijan, Uzbekistan and returned to Crimea in 1972. Needlework has been her hobby since childhood. In 1990, she was mentored by the last known Tatar Ishlem artist, who was 80 years old at the time. Esma is currently writing a book on Tatar Ishlem. All sales inquiries can be directed to Esma through email.
Mamut Churlu was born in Fergana, Uzbekistan. He opened Fergana’s first art school in 1975. He became a member of the USSR Artists’ Union in 1988 and joined the National Union of Ukrainian Artists in 1991. He returned to his motherland of Crimea in 1989 and was one of the founders of the Crimean Tatar National Gallery and the Association of Crimean Tatar Artists. Mamut Churlu is the author and curator of the Crimean Style project which has organized more than twenty exhibitions in cities throughout Ukraine and abroad. Mamut Churlu is a member of the National Union of Folk Artists of Ukraine and is an Honored Artist of Ukraine. All sales inquiries can be directed to Mamut through email.
Even before my return to my homeland in 1989, I created decorative textiles, painted, and worked as a researcher. I worked with museum collections, participated in ethnographic expeditions, spoke at conferences about Central Asian carpet weaving, and even published a study on ceramic toys from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. I worked as a curator, promoting Uzbek ceramics in exhibitions all around the Soviet world. My painting style is brutalist in character at first. It was birthed as a reaction to political aggression and an ongoing information war against my people. In the mid 90’s, I realized that persistent negativity would not uplift me or my people.
Khatidzhe Yunusova is originally from Yangiyul, Uzbekistan and returned to Crimea in 1992. She studied traditional embroidery under the guidance of Zarema Mustafayeva at the Arslan Youth Center in Bakhchysarai. Her work is part of private collections in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Israel. All sales inquiries can be directed to Khatidzhe through email or Instagram.