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An important collection of exquisite Suzani Embroidered textiles from central Asia

June 2018  -  September 2018

The Afridi Gallery presents Gardens of Delight, a collection of exceptionally rare 19th century suzani and the first chapter in a series of textile exhibitions.

Eight exquisitely handwoven embroideries originating from Central Asia and each of museum quality are expertly staged in a new context beside a selection of ‘objects to inspire’. Shahbaz Afridi, Director of the gallery, now returns to the central threads of his past, drawing on decades of expertise to bring these splendid works to life at his gallery.

The suzani on display originally would have been bridal dowries that were presented to the groom on a bride’s wedding day. They were woven in silk onto lengths of undyed cotton in time honoured fashion by a close female network - mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts, though most importantly the bride-to-be herself. 

Originating from modern day Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the cloths were an expression of a bride’s domestic skill and an integral part of tribal society, with the power to bond two families and secure their future. It is for this reason that the embroideries bear intricate networks of vinery and flourishing blossom, symbolising an abundance of good health, fertility, life and luck. The stylised foliage has a striking but sophisticated beauty. As well as having a social function, suzani are very much works of art in their own right. Fundamental to the suzani tradition was that entirely new designs were made for each wedding and fashions changed with the generations, allowing us now to admire a ravishing array of textured expression. Early suzanis of the mid 1700s to around 1875 are the most treasured today, and many were brought to the West by 19th century travellers.

“Gardens of Delight” at the Afridi Gallery offers a unique opportunity to experience a charming collection of these embroideries, which are as attractive as they are intriguing.

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