Costumes of Uzbekistan and Romanenko Valentina Nikolaevna: Oriental costume performance and Textile workshop Samarkand Uzbekistan
By Agha Iqrar Haroon
My quest to find history and background of Uzbek costumes was further ignited after my visit to “El Merosi” (Folk Legacy), the theater of historical costumes located in Samarkand and by watching live performance of youth, presenting 10,000 years of their history through exhibiting costumes. You can read my previous write-up about El Merosi to click here.
My journey in search of understanding Costumes of Uzbekistan landed me to another place where I could find further knowledge about threads, design, colouring and texture of Uzbek costumes.
This place was the house Romanenko Valentina Nikolaevna but her house is more than an Art Studio, a museum and a workshop of Uzbek costumes. Alika Abdullaeva and Narina Gasparian of Silk Road Destinations took me to her place and introduced me to her. Silk Road Destinations is Central Asia Tours Incoming Agency (C.A.T.I.A) based in Samarkand Uzbekistan. This organization promotes Uzbek art, culture, tourism, heritage and performing art through offering networking and meetings of artists with tourists and travel writers.
Valentina Romanenko is Russian by birth and had studied fabric and textiles in the city of Kirov. Kirov, formerly known as Vyatka and Khlynov, is the administrative center of Kirov Oblast of Russia, located on the Vyatka River. Her journey from Kirov to Samarkand started 30 years ago after she married a handsome Samarkandi boy. Cloth designing, dying and knitting are not only associated with her degree in costume making rather trend comes from her mother who was a skilled seamstress. Designing cloths and stitching is a part of the personality of Romanenko Valentina Nikolaevna.
I had many questions but my host (Romanenko Valentina Nikolaevna) answered all my questions without any words rather a polite smile and said I could ask questions after watching performance of her team of young girls. She offered traditional Uzbek hospitality by presenting Chai (tea) and dry fruit nuts to all tourists and visitors. A team of 6 girls appeared from backstage wearing traditional cloths and handmade colourful sandals those were made by cloth with extensive embroidery and show was continued for around 20 minutes and every segment of show represented an era of Uzbek costumes and narrated a folk tale through music and performance. By the end of the show, I had opportunity to know about her and costumes.
She mostly uses silk for costumes as she believes that silk is so light, very soft, very “obedient” (changes its shapes and colours according to the will of the master who is working on it) and flexible and can be dyed and painted easily without losing its texture. She uses only natural dyes, with onion skins being one of her favourites because of the range of browns she can produce and she also uses other materials like walnut shells, black mulberries, pomegranates and indigo. Uzbeks have been dyeing the raw silk in traditional designs and colours for centuries and she tries to use traditional colours, traditional techniques and traditional way of stitching cloths. Valentina creates not only shirts, skirts, jackets and headgears, bags and belts but an array of fantastical costumes and sandals with extensive embroidery.
Her work was showcased internationally by a German television in one of its documentary in year 1999 and now she showcases her work at her home also through fashion shows/performances where models emerge into her showroom draped in flowing silk dresses, padded coats, voluminous harem pants and stunning headgears.
After the show, one can buy her products and she is so modest that she accepts whatever a guest offers her and rates are not tagged on products. She has many friends in the tourism business therefore her house hosts hundreds of tourists every month from all over the world. All products including silk shawls, dolls, headgears, sandals and bags are designed by Valentina herself. Beading, buttons, sequins embroidery and hand-painted art work explains how detail and how careful work is done on a piece of cloth.
Visitor can see a collection of scarves, dresses, bags and other garments made by old technologies handed down by Uzbek masters from generation to generation, watch costumed folk show and, of course, buy any dress if wishes.
Some words about her work:
The clothes are created with bright colour combinations and unique designs in national style. The dresses and costumes made with modern fashion trends in view are decorated with traditional oriental motifs, embroidered and applied by batik methods. Rich oriental patterns are also used to decorate various accessories. She uses only natural materials – silk, cotton, and organic dyes, while the clothes are sewn manually.
Using the traditional Uzbek motifs and traditional embroidery, «Suzane» together with a natural fabric, and manual trimming, unique and distinctive jackets and vests are created. The prepared parts for the jackets, all embroidered and trimmed are processed with additional dyeing, so the production of two identical items is simply impossible. Therefore every piece of cloth is unique and posses individuality.
Embroidery process is a combination of hand and machine embroidery. Another type of product is a beautiful and comfortable quilted silk jacket, with national motifs, and various design options, both for younger people and for the people of more mature age.
Silk from the Fergana Valley is processed, stained and painted by hand in batik technique , turns into beautiful scarves and shawls, which feel cool on a hot day, and give warmth in colder weather. In the manufacture of scarves, ancient hand-printed techniques are used. Elegant warm quilted silk scarves are just another invention of her.
There are pockets in the scarf, which can be of 2 types: outside, and hidden, with zippers. Scarves adorned with tassels of silk.
Silk scarves, painted in the technique of cold and hot batik and paintings are national, abstract, floral motifs, traditional designs and patterns. Scarves can be washed manually washing, cleaning with shampoo.
She has revived the ancient art of decorating fabric by using hand stamp techniques. The basis of this technique is to apply a special way thickened dye on the fabric with carved seals, which are called «Kolyba».
Headgears are made from pieces of rope, pieces of fabric and fur and are carefully hand stitched.
Belts are also beaded, decorated with hand and machine embroidery and painting on fabric. In addition, the belt has a practical benefit, since all belts have a removable or built-in pocket.
Bags are made of cotton, velvet or silk. The decoration of bags used beads, cord, braids and fringes. There may be elements of both– hand and machine embroidery, hand painting and coloring.
Leaving her place, I was thinking that Valentina Romanenko Art Workshop is the essence of the rich experience of Samarkand masters in silk, painting and embroidery and she is promoting and showcasing the ancient art work of Silk Road tirelessly.
She has participated in many international exhibitions and festivals including:
- 2012 — Kaliningrad, Russia. Orthodox Exhibition-Fair.
- 2011 — Berlin, Germany. 50-th edition of Import Shop Berlin.
- 2011 — Almaty, Kazakhstan. Show under the program «Cultural Asian -2011″.
- 2011 — Houston, USA. International Trade Fair.
- 2004 — Santa Fe, USA. Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
- 2004 — Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The Second International Festival Art of «In the Name of Peace»
- 2003 — Berlin, Germany. Messe Import Shop Berlin.
- 2003 — Almaty, Kazakhstan. Central Asian Crafts Fair «Golden Heritage of Central Asia.» Winner of artisans.
- 2002 — Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Annual Festival «Silk and Spice» .
- 2002 — Almaty, Kazakhstan. Central Asian Crafts Fair.
- 2002 — Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan. The exhibition-competition «Golden Heritage of Central Asia».
- 2001 — Messe Sinsheim «Feines Kunsthandwerk».
- 2001 — Tashkent, Uzbekistan. International Fashion Show «Azia XXI».
- 2000 — Almaty, Kazakhstan. International Festival of Arts «Silk Road culture.» Master Class.
- 1999 — Participation in the shooting of the German television documentary «Drei wege nach Samarkand».