Forthcoming Lectures


Lecture: 'Pierced Fingers: The Art of Qaraqalpaq Embroidery'


Qaraqalpaq qizil kiymeshek
Painting of a Qaraqalpaq bridal hair veil, known as a qizil kiymeshek (red kiymeshek).
Painted by Olga Joldasova in 1952.


Qaraqalpaq folk art is not only vibrant, raw, and powerful but is also extremely varied. Qaraqalpaq embroideries, costumes, and yurt decorations incorporate amazing contrasts of colour and texture - sometimes understated and reserved, sometimes dramatic and assertive.

Fashion is, and always has been, dynamic - not only for us in the West but also for many traditional ethnic societies. David and Sue will show how the textiles and decorative embroidery techniques used by the Qaraqalpaqs changed dramatically over time, leading to a revolution in women's ceremonial costume. They will show that the factors that brought about these changes were many and varied, ranging from conquest and forced migration, to cross-cultural exchange and the expanding international trade in textiles.

Merseyside Embroiderers' Guild, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Time and date: 2.00pm, Saturday 3 October 2015.

Location: All Hallows Church Hall, 1 Greenhill Road, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, Merseyside LI8 6JJ.

Please note that non-members are welcome for a small charge.




Previous Lectures



Lecture: 'Evolution of the Qaraqalpaq Kiymeshek: A Central Asian Example of Ever-Changing Fashion'


Qaraqalpaq kiymeshek
A married Qaraqalpaq woman dressed in her ceremonial kiymeshek, topped by a turban and a jegde, the latter always worn out-of-doors.


The Qaraqalpaq red qızıl kiymeshek is one of the most stunning ethnic garments to have come out of Central Asia. It was a ceremonial headdress designed to completely conceal the hair of a bride or young married woman, protecting her and her unborn child from the harmful threat of the 'evil eye'. The white aq kiymeshek seems to have been adopted by the Qaraqalpaqs at some time in the mid-nineteenth century. However such kiymesheks were simpler garments made from home-woven cotton bo'z embroidered in cross-stitch. By the late nineteenth century the influx of new textiles from the factories of Russia and the workshops of Khiva had led to a dramatic transformation in Qaraqalpaq women's ceremonial costumes and the emergence of the larger and more stunning red qızıl kiymeshek embroidered in chain-stitch.

Sue Richardson's lecture focuses on the emergence, evolution, and demise of the kiymeshek from the eighteenth century to the present day, just one example of the ever-changing face of Qaraqalpaq female costume.

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, United Kingdom.

Time and date: 11.30am, Tuesday 12 February 2013.
Location: Room B104, First Floor, The Brunei Gallery, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG.

Please note that access is restricted to participants in the specialist art course: 'Textiles across Asia An Informing Thread'.




Lecture: 'Qaraqalpaq Textile and Embroidery Fashions'


Qaraqalpaq kok koylek
A young prospective Qaraqalpaq bride with her cross-stitch embroidered ko'k ko'ylek (blue dress).
Painted by Olga Joldasova in 1952.


Qaraqalpaq folk art is not only vibrant, raw, and powerful but is also extremely varied. Qaraqalpaq embroideries, costumes, and yurt decorations incorporate amazing contrasts of colour and texture sometimes understated and reserved, sometimes dramatic and assertive.

Fashion is and always has been dynamic - not only for us in the West but also for many traditional ethnic societies. David and Sue will show how the textiles and decorative embroidery techniques used by the Qaraqalpaqs changed dramatically over time, leading to a revolution in women's ceremonial costume. They will show that the factors that brought about these changes were many and varied, ranging from conquest and forced migration, to cross-cultural exchange and the expanding international trade in textiles.

Manchester Embroiderers' Guild, Manchester, United Kingdom.

Time and date: 2.00pm, Saturday 6 July 2013.
Location: The Union Chapel, Wellington Road (off Wilbraham Rd), Fallowfield, Manchester, M14 6EQ.

Please note that access is restricted to Embroiderers' Guild members.




Previous Lectures

Lecture: 'Qara U'y - The Qaraqalpaq Yurt and its Decoration'


Qaraqalpaq yurt painting
A wealthy Qaraqalpaq family's yurt at Moynaq, painted by Boris Andrianov, a young archaeologist and
ethnographer attached to the Khorezm Archaeological and Ethnographic Expedition, in 1946.


A fully decorated Qaraqalpaq yurt is a joyful sight one of the most delightful nomadic dwellings in the whole of Central Asia. However Qaraqalpaq weavings have never been properly researched and remain relatively unknown compared to those of their Qazaq, Uzbek, or Turkmen neighbours. Many items that are labelled Qaraqalpaq are not Qaraqalpaq at all, while genuine Qaraqalpaq weavings are frequently mislabelled and incorrectly dated.

After introducing the Qaraqalpaqs and describing their unusual formerly semi-nomadic lifestyle, David and Sue will describe the special features of the Qaraqalpaq qara u'y and how it was made. The key focus of their talk will be the various structural and decorative weavings associated with the yurt, along with Qaraqalpaq storage bags, rugs, and carpets. They will explain how they were woven and how they were used. They will end by attempting to resolve the long-standing controversy that has surrounded Qaraqalpaq carpets for over a century.

Lecture Programme:

Oxford Asian Textile Group, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Time and date: 5.45pm, 25 August 2012. Refreshments available from 5.15pm.
Location: Pauling Centre for Human Sciences, 58 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6QS.

OATG members free. Non-members welcome for a modest 2.00 admission fee.




Chicago Oriental Rug and Textile Society (CORTS), Chicago, IL.

Time and date: 6.15pm, Friday, September 7, 2012. Refreshments available from 5.30pm.
Location: Minasian Oriental Rug Company, 1244 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.




Rug and Textile Society of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN.

Time and date: 3.00pm, Sunday, September 9, 2012.
Location: Adult Lecture Room A, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, IN 46208.

Please note that because of limited room size the society can only accommodate 10 non-members on a first-come first-served basis.




Seattle Textile and Rug Society (STARS), Seattle, WA.

Time and date: 6.30pm, Tuesday, September 11, 2012. Non members welcome, $10 guest fee.
Location: Pioneer Hall, 1642 43rd Avenue East, Seattle, WA 98112.




San Francisco Bay Area Rug Society, (SFBARS), San Francisco, CA.

Time and date: 7.30pm, Thursday, September 13, 2012. Guests free, non members welcome.
Location: Emmett Eilands Oriental Rug Gallery, 1326 Ninth Street, Berkeley, CA.




Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Time and date: 10.00am to 12.30am, Saturday, September 15, 2012. Guests free, non members welcome.
Location: UCLA Campus, Room 314, Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095.

Venue kindly provided by the UCLA Asia Institute.




International Hajji Baba Society, Washington, DC.

Time and date: 3.00pm, Sunday, September 23, 2012. Guests free, non members welcome.
Location: Arlington County Library Auditorium, Second Floor Meeting Room, 1015 North Quincy Street, Arlington, VA 22201.

Directions to Arlington County Library from Key Bridge:

Head south on Francis Scott Key Bridge into Virginia
Turn right on Lee Highway (just past the Marriott Hotel). Go 2 miles along Lee Highway.
Turn left onto N Quincy St (by Honda dealer). Go 1 mile.
The Arlington Central Library is at left, at 1015 N Quincy Street.
There is free parking both above and below ground on the left, just as you approach the library. There is also a larger free parking lot above ground next to the library if you turn left at 10th Street N.




The Hajji Baba Club, New York.

Time and date: 6.45pm, Monday, September 24, 2012. Doors open at 6.00pm.
Location: The Coffee House Club, 20 West 44th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Please note that this lecture is not open to the general public.




New England Rug Society, Boston.

Time and date: 7.30pm, Friday, September 28, 2012.
Location: First Parish, 14 Bedford Road, Lincoln, MA 01773.




Lecture: The Influence of Tribal Conflict, the 'Great Game', and Trade on Qaraqalpaq Costume


Qizil kiymeshek with a sari adras quyriq
A magnificent qızıl kiymeshek with a quyrıq made from Khivan sarı adras.
Collection of the former Qaraqalpaq Regional Studies Museum, No'kis, inventory number 4182.


Formed as a small confederation of Turkic tribes on the middle Syr Darya in the mid-sixteenth century, the Qaraqalpaqs continually sought defensive alliances with the more powerful sedentary states and nomadic hordes that surrounded them, even attempting to gain the protection of Imperial Russia by swearing allegiance to the Empress in 1743. As the Qazaqs of the Junior Horde steadily forced them south into their present homeland in the Aral Delta they increasingly came under the domination of the Khivan Uzbeks. The material culture of the Qaraqalpaqs was not only changed by the cultural influence of the Khivans but came close to annihilation as a result of increasingly repressive taxation. It was rescued thanks to the Russians, who began their military advance into Turkestan in the mid-nineteenth century which culminated with the conquest of the remote Khanate of Khiva in 1873. The majority of Qaraqalpaqs finally became citizens of Russian Turkestan.

Russia's newly emerging textile industry was quick to exploit its newly-opened colonial markets. As the prosperity of the Qaraqalpaqs began to improve they not only gained exposure to Khivan semi-silk ikat, pure silk sashes, polished alacha and the culture of farmed cotton, but also had access to Russian woollen broadcloth, inexpensive printed chintz and woollen shawls. Over time they began to incorporate these new textiles into their costume. At first the changes were modest but by the start of the twentieth century the new textiles had inspired stunningly new decorative embroidery designs and dramatic new fashions.




The Textile Society of America, Biennial Symposium: 'Textiles & Politics', Washington, DC.

Time and Date: Approximately 11.30am, Friday, September 21, 2012.
Location: Hermitage Room, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Avenue, Washington, DC 20001.

Attendance restricted to TSA symposium delegates.




Lecture: Kiymesheks and Qarshıns: Insights into Two Qaraqalpaq Textiles


Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain, London, United Kingdom.


Time and date: 7.00pm, Wednesday 22 September 2010.
Location: Swedenborg Hall, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH.

Entrance round the corner on Barter Street, two minutes from the British Museum.




Lecture: Karakalpak Costume: Ever Changing Fashions in Western Central Asia


Oxford Asian Textile Group, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Time and date: 5.45pm, 25 August 2012. Refreshments available from 5.15pm.
Location: Pauling Centre for Human Sciences, 58 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6QS.

OATG members free. Non-members welcome for a modest 2.00 admission fee.






Recent Articles

Open Central Asia Magazine, London.

'The Qaraqalpaqs and the Aral Sea Crisis'

Spring Edition 2013, published March 2013. Downloadable online.




Steppe Magazine, South Moreton, Oxfordshire.

'The Qaraqalpaq Yurt and its Decoration'

Summer 2013 Edition.


HALI, Number 173, London.

'Outwitting the Evil Eye'

September/October Edition 2012.




Asian Textiles, Oxford.

'The Symbolism of Livestock Horns among the Qaraqalpaqs'

Summer 2012 Edition.




Textiles Asia, Hong Kong.

'The Qaraqalpaq Qızıl Kiymeshek'

June 2012 Edition




Hand/Eye Magazine, Issue 03, Spring/Summer 2010.

'Protect & Defend'




Asian Textiles, Number 44, October 2009.

'The Kiymeshek of the Karakalpaks'




Asian Textiles, Number 44, October 2009.

'A comprehensive introduction to the Karakalpaks', Sheila Paine.




Asian Textiles, Number 39, February 2008.

'Unravelling the mysteries of the Karakalpaks. David and Sue Richardson examine two of their favourite textiles.'




HALI, Number 142, September/October 2005.

'The Karakalpaks - The Forgotten Tribe of Central Asia'





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