I've been waylaid by end-of-school stuff, a swollen ankle, and the flu, but I'm back to posting again. So, if you've read my first entry, you know that I am obsessed the the concept of the Uzbek Suzani tapestry, a traditional piece of large silk, cotton, or wool that is hand-embroidered and passed on in a young woman's dowry. Ebay has been selling these for a song and I am pleased to say that I am in the possession of four Suzanis now, with two more on the way. I pat myself on the back, saying this is my first investment in antiques--all for less than $50--and boy, do they make an impression!
The one above my fireplace arrived yesterday, and it was the one I was really excited about. When I picked it up at the post office, it was the usual ham-shaped bundle wrapped in greasy paper and string with a wax seal...a bit grimy, like Borat himself. But, in my eagerness to see what was inside, I found myself--and others--almost gasping at what rolled out of the paper. Oh, it was big, alright--5 x 8 feet--but what got me were the colors. This piece is purported to be at least 70 years old, and you can tell if you look at the fringe...it's really eaten up. But I swear, the pinks and yellows are almost flourescent. All the colors glow. This, after 70 years, before chemicals...vegetable dyes? That have maintained their luster...amazing!
I skipped off with my treasure with that little song in my head that keeps saying, "this is not quite right." Why are these precious family heirlooms being sold off for a song? So I bit the bullet and looked up info on the economy of Uzbekistan: It is a land-locked country. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militants, economic stagnation, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization. Technology is antiquated; trafficking of drugs, slaves, and prostitutes is rampant. They're off there, fending for themselves, selling off precious things that we can snap up for a song on Ebay.
So when I buy these Suzanis, am I helping or hurting? What can I do for a socialist country on the other side of the world? For now, I look at this beauty, take a breath, and say a prayer for those not born into a world like mine.