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'The Golden Road to Samarkand' - the Architecture, Art and Textiles of Uzbekistan

Lecture on Monday 5th June 2023 at 1:45PM

Lecturer: Chris Aslan
Venue: Larruperz Centre

Uzbekistan in the heart of Central Asia boasts glittering mosques, madrassahs and minarets in the Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. These contrast wonderfully with the brutalist Soviet buildings of Tashkent, Urgench and Nukus.

This lecture is an overview of the country, and a primer for anyone thinking of visiting. We explore the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, with the second largest collection of Russian Avante Garde Art, collected at a time when these artistic styles were banned by the state. We explore the revival of Islamic miniature painting in Bukhara and the resurgence of handicrafts all over the country that ceased during the 1930s and the Soviet drive to make everything factory-based. Embroidered suzanis from Nurata, stunning ceramics from Rishton, and the production of silk and velvet in Margilan. Plus, what are the ways that tourism is helping and hindering the production of high-quality handicrafts?

Chris Aslan Alexander was born in Turkey (hence the name Aslan) and spent his childhood there and in war-torn Beirut. After school, Chris spent two years at sea before studying Media and Journalism at Leicester University. He then moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, establishing a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries, and becoming the largest non-government employer in town. He was kicked out as part of an anti-Western purge, and took a year in Cambridge to write A Carpet Ride to Khiva. Chris then spent three years in the Pamirs mountains of Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Since then, Chris has studied and rowed at Oxford, and is now based in Cambridge and focused on writing fiction, including Alabaster, Manacle and Mosaic, and The Broken Hexapus. He is currently working on a new book on the Silk Road that marries travel and textiles, and lectures for The Art Society. He also leads tours to Central Asia, returning whenever he can having left a large chunk of his heart out there.

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