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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 20, 2005

Suzani exhibit embodies vibrancy of embroidery

Advertiser News Services

Uzbek women keep the suzani tradition alive.

Hermine Dreyfuss

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8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 19

East-West Center Gallery



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Suzani, Tashkent, early 20th century, 117 inches by 103 inches.

Ann Svenson Perlman

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“Restoring Exquisite Textiles,” forum with Ann Svenson Perlman, textile conservator of the Doris Duke Shangri La Collection, 2 p.m. Dec. 4, East-West Center Gallery.

“The Silk Road: Destination Bukhara,” lecture by Aslam Syed, Freeman visiting professor in Asian studies, 2 p.m. Dec. 11, East-West Center Gallery.

“Culture and Politics of Central Asia,” lecture by Anne Wright, formerly a U.S. diplomat in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Mongolia, 2 p.m. Jan. 8, East-West Center Gallery.

Performance by Shashmaqam, a Bukharan Jewish ensemble, 8 p.m. Jan. 14, Jefferson Hall, Imin Center. Admission. Tickets available from Jan. 2;


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If you've taken the tour of Doris Duke's home Shangri La, you know its every wall, floor, corner, ceiling and garden is adorned with some kind of Islamic work, whether tiles, glass lamps, wood carvings or rugs. Duke also collected Central Asian suzani textiles — rectangles of cloth embroidered in seductively colorful patterns — that are still a strong tradition in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. On view to the public for the first time is the late heiress' array of suzanis in "Enduring Threads: Central Asian Embroidered Textiles" at the East-West Center Gallery.

Organized in conjunction with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the show is an overview of an art little known in the West.

For centuries, women did this fine sewing work for their daughters' dowries, producing fabrics that were used as wall hangings, bedspreads, tablecloths and curtains, according to an East-West Center announcement about the show. The exhibition's multipurpose textiles show off the needle skills — suzan means needle in Farsi — of generations of women. Vibrant floral and geometric patterns dance on cloth.

Also on view are images by Washington, D.C.-based photographer and ethnographer Hermine Dreyfuss, who has documented the working lives of Uzbek suzani embroiderers.

Bolstering the exhibition are four events where the audience can learn more about suzanis and the culture and countries that produce them. Ann Svenson Perlman, conservator of Shangri La's textiles, will speak Dec. 4 about restoring antique textiles.

Put the art in context by attending visiting professor Aslam Syed's lecture "The Silk Road: Destination Bukhara." The city's international trading-post status since Marco Polo days influenced suzani designs and motifs — cultural accepts that can still be seen today.

Learn more: www.eastwestcenter.org