Turkmen Embroidery


Tahya (men's traditional pants), Zohre Meredova, 2017


Bilizek (bracelet), Gozel Meredova Kushliyeva, 2019

The  Turkmen are an ethnic group first identified in Central Asia during the 10th century that began as a nomadic culture. Over time, the Turkmen began to settle more collectively, and in the late 1800s, the Turkmen region was divided among Afghanistan, Iran, and the former Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the independent Republic of Turkmenistan was founded. For centuries, the Turkmen have maintained a cultural identity distinct from their Central Asian neighbors which can be seen in the particular textile traditions of  knotted carpets, silk production, and  embroidery.

Embroidery plays an important role in the lives of Turkmen women who often gather together as they work and showcase their skills and creativity while discussing their life experience. The colors and motifs used in embroidery differ slightly across Turkmenistan’s provinces, but the use of stylized floral and geometric designs is common to all. The traditional dark red present in all provinces comes from the madder plant. Some embroidered objects are created because they promote health and good fortune specifically for children and women of child-bearing age.


Gapjyk (Purse), Gozel Meredova Kushliyeva, 2019

The colors in these pieces offer protection from the  evil eye Red, yellow, black and white are the regional colors for the Meredova family. They are from the  Ahal Province  which is located in central/southern Turkmenistan.

This purse and bracelet show innovation in the tradition by adapting them to a new format. Such a change makes it easier to consume the tradition at small scale, appealing to tourists and those who want to carry a piece of Turkmen culture with them.

turkmenistan ahal region.jpg

Map Highlighting the Provinces of Turkmenistan, Including the Ahal Region (starred)

Vocabulary Words: 
  • Turkmen: a member of a group of Turkic peoples inhabiting the region east of the Caspian Sea and south of the Aral Sea, now comprising Turkmenistan and parts of Iran and Afghanistan.
  • knotted carpet: a carpet containing raised surfaces, or piles, from the cut off ends of knots woven between the warp and weft.
  • silk production: the production of raw silk by means of raising caterpillars (larvae) from the domesticated silkworm. Silk production involves both raising and producing the mulberry trees that the silkworms eat, and caring for the silkworm from the egg stage through cocoon stage.
  • embroidery: the art of working raised and ornamental designs in threads of silk, cotton, gold, silver, or other material, upon any woven fabric, leather, paper, etc., with a needle.
  • evil eye: a gaze or stare superstitiously believed to cause material harm.
  • Ahal Province: Ahal Region is one of the regions of Turkmenistan. It is in the south-center of the country, bordering Iran and Afghanistan along the Kopet Dag Range.
Turkmen Embroidery