Ikat making in Uzbekistan is an ancient type of applied art. The history of Ikat atlas and adras making technologies in the territory of Uzbekistan dates to the late antique period. Historically, Margilan, as the heart of the Fergana Valley, was the birthplace of advanced silk craftsmanship of Central Asia and the center for making atlas and adras—vivid and fine traditional fabrics.
The traditional Atlas Bayrami (Celebrating Atlas) Textile Festival has been conducted biennially since 2015 by the Ferghana region administration in close cooperation with the Margilan Crafts Development Centre (MCDC), UNESCO Office in Tashkent, National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO, DVV International, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Margilan branch of Khunarmand Republican crafts association, Uzbektourizm national company, and Uzbekistan association of cooks. All editions of the festival were honored with the participation of Ms. Bibi Russell, UNESCO Artist for Peace, a textile and crafts specialist, and world-famous craft designer. The main aim and objectives of the festival is to safeguard and promote the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan, support for the development of traditional crafts and improvement of quality and design of the crafts products as well as to attract tourists to Fergana Valley. Also the capacity building activities will contribute to improve economic and social wellbeing of the local population. The 2015 festival was held in Margilan, an ancient center of silk weaving on the Great Silk Road. Due to its success, the festival from year to year expanded to become one of the unique initiatives in Uzbekistan. The last festival, which was held in 2018 included a wider geographical range with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan joining the festival, thus expanding to a greater Central Asian area. Furthermore, representatives from China, Spain, USA, France, Madagascar, Mongolia, and Russia also participated in the festival. The participation of these craftspeople, artists, and specialists enriched the festival and provided a more profound experience as well as contributed to the general cooperation of Central Asian countries through culture. It offered a great possibility to explore a wide variety of traditions, styles, patterns, techniques, and ideas of the region while providing an opportunity for experts to share their knowledge with the concerned audience. The following activities are conducted in the framework of the festival:
It became a good tradition to undertake scientific conferences devoted to different aspects of crafts, at which participate leading masters of traditional textile and clothing design artisans, art scientists, art managers, and specialists in the management of traditional crafts. The conference mainly addresses the following areas: Ikat; carpet weaving, including felt weaving; embroidery; block printing; and clothing. Furthermore, the issues of safeguarding and developing traditions of textile art, including its history and present state are discussed during the conference. The scientific conferences have become one of the most important parts of the traditional textile festival. Last conference was conducted under the theme: “The Interaction of Cultures of East and West on the Great Silk Road: Hangzhou, Margilan, Valencia.” In fact, the conference has become a place for not only discussing latest developments in the field of textile and culture in general but also for exchanging opinions and exploring best practices.
Workshops and Capacity-Building Activities on Traditional Embroidery, Block Printing and Natural Dying
In the framework of the festival, workshops for the natural dyeing, production of textile products, carpets, block printing, metal works etc. are held in the Centre. Training programs are conducted for young craftsmen from colleges, including women, at the Centre.
The main purpose of conducting workshops and capacity-building activities is to train young craftswomen from Fergana Valley to master the new skills and knowledge on traditional handicrafts (embroidery, block printing, natural dyeing). Thus, the training strengthens the national capacity on the field of traditional crafts among the youth that promotes transmitting and safeguarding traditional skills and knowledge to the next generation and extend opportunities for improvement of economic and social wellbeing. The capacity-building activities start on the first day of the festival and are conducted by the leading masters from Uzbekistan and abroad, they continue for all three days at the MCDC.
Art Exhibition, Fashion Show with the Elements of Traditional Textile
The festival program also includes a number of important activities such as presentation of gastronomic opportunities of the Fergana Valley, for example a palov (a popular rice dish) contest, devzira, popular in families and tea-houses of the valley, show of Uzbek fashion designers, performances of folk music groups, puppet performances, performances of traditional kurash wrestlers and rope-walkers. Furthermore, various exhibitions of handicrafts, folk art, and fine art as well as exhibitions of children’s drawings are also held during the festival.
Craftsmen Awarding Ceremony
The exhibits displayed within the exhibition are evaluated by an international jury to select and award the best crafts masters and designers at the festival’s gala event with certificates and prizes. The gala event also includes a concert of traditional Uzbek performers.
During the festival, several public activities on ICH are held in different national and international media.
Moreover, within the framework of the festival organized in 2018, the Director of the MCDC was given a certificate on the inclusion of the safeguarding atlas and adras making the traditional technologies on the UNESCO Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.