Siberian Art Eastern Siberian Art: Distinguished Artists from Irkutsk and Buryatia. Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of the Baikal Region. Land of Sacred Sea as a crossroad of European, Russian and Asian traditions. Preservation, interpretation and development of Buddhist, Orthodox and Shamanistic traditions by contemporary artists. Art as self-realization and a mode of existence. Promotion of mutual understanding through cultural and art exchanges
Eastern Siberian Art: Distinguished Artists from Irkutsk and Buryatia. Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of the Baikal Region. Land of Sacred Sea as a crossroad of European, Russian and Asian traditions. Preservation, interpretation and development of Buddhist, Orthodox and Shamanistic traditions by contemporary artists. Art as self-realization and a mode of existence. Promotion of mutual understanding through cultural and art exchanges


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Siberian art, buryat art, horsehair tapestry, buryat painting, watercolor,  buryat sculpture, shamanism, shaman, Siberian culture, buryat culture, buddhism, Russian orthodoxy, cultural heritage, Baikal, Siberia, art exchanges, cultural exchanges, art, culture, tapestry, Buddhist, Orthodox, Shamanistic, Siberia, Buryatia, Art, Culture, Buddhism, Siberian Art, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, horsehair, tapestry, Siberian Sculpture, shaman, icons, cultural exchanges, artists, weavers

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Siberian art, buryat art, horsehair tapestry, buryat painting, watercolor,  buryat sculpture, shamanism, shaman, Siberian culture, buryat culture, buddhism, Russian orthodoxy, cultural heritage, Baikal, Siberia, art exchanges, cultural exchanges, art, culture, tapestry, Buddhist, Orthodox, Shamanistic, Siberia, Buryatia, Art, Culture, Buddhism, Siberian Art, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, horsehair, tapestry, Siberian Sculpture, shaman, icons, cultural exchanges, artists, weavers

Siberian art, buryat art, horsehair tapestry, buryat painting, watercolor,  buryat sculpture, shamanism, shaman, Siberian culture, buryat culture, buddhism, Russian orthodoxy, cultural heritage, Baikal, Siberia, art exchanges, cultural exchanges, art, culture, tapestry, Buddhist, Orthodox, Shamanistic, Siberia, Buryatia, Art, Culture, Buddhism, Siberian Art, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, horsehair, tapestry, Siberian Sculpture, shaman, icons, cultural exchanges, artists, weavers

Siberian art, buryat art, horsehair tapestry, buryat painting, watercolor,  buryat sculpture, shamanism, shaman, Siberian culture, buryat culture, buddhism, Russian orthodoxy, cultural heritage, Baikal, Siberia, art exchanges, cultural exchanges, art, culture, tapestry, Buddhist, Orthodox, Shamanistic, Siberia, Buryatia, Art, Culture, Buddhism, Siberian Art, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, horsehair, tapestry, Siberian Sculpture, shaman, icons, cultural exchanges, artists, weavers
Buryat Tapestry:
interweaving time, place and traditions
by Irina Dyatlovskaya
See also:
Rebirth Of Traditional Craft

›› Albina Tsybikova

›› Zhamso Radnaev

›› Dashi Namdakov

›› Valentin Bazarov

›› Sergey Korenev

›› Boris Desyatkin


›› Dashi Namdakov

›› Dmitry Budazhabe


›› Buryat Tapestry

›› Taars

›› Albina Tsybikova

›› Baiarma Dambieva

›› Rimma Dorzhieva

›› Tatiana Dasheeva

›› Tamara Timina

›› Alima Tsyrendorzhieva


›› Valentin Bazarov


RELIGIOUS ART

›› Dmitry Budazhabe


›› Murals in Irkutsk



The region of Buryatia and its tapestry art are not widely known outside of Russia, yet they deserve special attention for a number of reasons: this interesting and little known part of the world offers a wealth of profound knowledge and skills, a beautiful landscape, a bounty of earthy and human delights, and a unique method and approach to tapestry.

Horsehair tapestry is a very peculiar “commodity” of Buryat art. It is rooted in the ancient culture of nomadic Buryats and is intertwined with the traditions of other peoples and other cultures.

Horse hair has been used by Buryats, as well as other nomads, in their daily life for many years. This traditional Buryat material, combined with the technique of tapestry learned from the Russians and various traditions of tapestry existing in other parts of the world, plus the curiosity of a few Buryat craftspeople/artists and resulted in what can now rightfully be called “Buryat tapestry”.

The first horsehair tapestry, “Baikal” (200 x 75 centimeters), was shown at the all-Siberian Exhibit of 1974. It was woven by Tamara Timina, who was intrigued and enchanted by a tapestry exhibit of a Baltic weaver. Timina became a pioneer of the Buryat tapestry.

Following this introduction of a “new material” (and a new, for the Buryat, art), a few other artists began to learn to create horsehair tapestries. One of the teachers was N. Dulbinova, a craftswoman who was at ease with this difficult medium of horsehair and who had rich experience in employing it in its “traditional” role in taars, the traditional Buryat rugs which were widely used by Buryats in their nomadic life earlier in the century.

Tapestry as an art was born in Buryatia in the beginning of the 1980s. It was “born” at the time of revival of interest in traditional crafts in the Republic and at the time of growing interest in tapestry art in the former Soviet Union (the same interest arose in the US at that time). It was a time of resurrection of interest in national traditions and original Buryat art. Construction of a new building for the National Buryat Theater was underway and, with the support of the government, artists working in various media received an opportunity to participate. The painter Dashinima Dugarov (the Chief artist for the interior decoration of the theater) was a source of support and inspiration. He promoted the idea of employing traditional Buryat techniques and motifs in all details of the interior design of this building.

It was decided to make the main curtain from horsehair. There were no skilful weavers familiar with this medium, indeed there were no skilled tapestry makers in Buryatia at that time, but the idea was very appealing. The sketch for the curtain entitled “Spring” was developed by E. Ayusheev while D. Dugarov, Solbon and Svetlana Rinchinov led the project. They recruited 10 brave artists who were interested in this work and undertook to learn how to spin and weave horsehair. The 8 x12 meter (24 x 36 feet) curtain was woven in 8 months. For many weavers it was a first experience both in working with horsehair and in tapestry.

This project provided not only for the creation of a unique piece of art - the first and only horsehair theater curtain in the world, but it also created and boosted development of tapestry in Buryatia. It was really a unique and very powerful event that introduced such future masters of horsehair tapestry as Baiarma Dambieva, Rimma Dorzhieva, and Tatiana Dasheeva.

The women who became tapestry apprentices and makers of the theatre curtain were no strangers to the world of art nor to the use of horsehair. All, or almost all, of them were born into families living on the steppes and herding sheep or horses where craft skills (weaving, wood carving, etc) were a part of daily life and were not treated as something out of ordinary. Many of them had an art education; some like Svetlana Rinchinova or Baiarma Dambieva had a musical education or background. But the art of tapestry, the use of horsehair for artistic purposes, as an art medium and an art form- this was new for all or most of them. A handful made horsehair tapestry the focus of their lives and became their own artists, tapestry makers with a very distinguished style.

But how did it all begin? What preceded the creation of horsehair tapestry as an art form?

Buryats traditionally used horsehair for very practical purposes: it provided for strong robes and harnesses, saddle-girths, reins, fetters and collars for horses and calves. Later, after the Russians who settled in Siberia in the 17th century introduced weaving, Buryats started making taars, small rugs which were used more for practical than decorative purposes. The first taars were made from goat hair yarn with horsehair as a base. They were of a small size, mainly with geometric designs, and woven on small (often thread) reeds called “nykhur,” or on small primitive vertical looms. A few long narrow stripes were woven and then sewn together. Instead of a loom, tapestry weavers use a primitive vertical wooden frame, which they warp.

Taars are very durable like everything made out of horsehair, whether covers for leather shoes (pantla) or rain hats (horsehair is water repellant, thus very practical for that kind of wear) or even fishing nets (for those only white hair could be used in order not to scare fish). Taars were used not only inside the house, but also as covers for horses. The medicinal qualities of horsehair, its warmth (including the warmth and energy from the human hands weaving the taar) and elasticity, made taars desirable and useful as massage pads. Durable, warm, practical, easy to make: taars became an integral part of each Buryat household.

There was a special ritual (“adha dylhylhe”) for harvesting horsehair. In the spring, after first grass appears and days become warmer, a group of young strong men gathered together and caught horses with special ropes with a loop. The entire herd was brought into a fenced space and there the horsehair harvesting took place. Only the mane hair, the small tuft of hair from between the ears, of mares and foals were harvested, never of stallions, as well as the tails of the colts. While the men were harvesting hair, the women prepared the ritual meal.

With the industrial development of the 1920s and later, traditional hand made items were replaced with mass produced ones and traditional folks crafts were forgotten or abandoned.
Yet thanks to those few who managed to remember their traditions and tried to collect all the “remnants” of forgotten skills, traditional crafts are now coming back to life.

The process of preparation of the material, horse hair, for tapestry today is no different from the one used earlier in the century when horsehair was used for other purposes. It starts with collection of hair, cleaning and washing, drying, sorting hair by color, fluffing it, spinning. There are no commercial supplies of clean horsehair arranged according to a color scheme, as exists in the US - artists themselves are responsible for preparing it.

Of course, there are a number of challenges to this seemingly simple process. During the Soviet times, according to Baiarma Dambieva it was easier to obtain horsehair from slaughterhouses where hair were mixed with other substances, and where one really had to have a strong desire to work with tapestry: a strong smell makes horsehair collection quite a challenge.A few organizations were collecting horsehair but, with the fall of the Soviet Union, this source vanished and obtaining horsehair became quite a task..

A distinguished feature of all Buryat tapestries is its non-abstract, figurative character, whether landscapes (works of Dorzhieva, Timina, Richinova) or figures, pastoral or decorative scenes, or imagery richly incorporating Buryat ornament and Buryat mythology (tapestries designed by Al. Tsybikova and woven by B. Dambieva). The style and technique of the five major masters are easily identifiable. Dambieva’s tapestry demonstrates a subtlety and delicacy of colors and soft “texture,” almost a watercolor, airy quality. There is an intense “skidding” pattern of colors in Dorzhieva’s works. T. Dasheeva employs a “folk picture,” primitive style in both the imagery and “rough” manner of weaving. T. Timina’s decorativism and S. Rinchinova’s ornamentalism represent not only mature masters with their own style, but also a variety of possibilities built into the media they use.


There are three main colors available: brown, black and white. The brown is most readily available while the white is a rather rare commodity. A real skill and a very good sense of color are required from an artist in order to achieve desirable results with such a limited choice of color. Yet the weavers see the limited choice of colors as an advantage. Baiarma Dambieva says that in those three colors is a whole spectrum, and this limit sharpens one’s eye and prompts one to find other ways to express color richness. ”It is every easy to make tapestry when you have tens of colors and hues of various colors,” Baiarma says, “but to create a picturesque and rich in subtle colors and color overtones a delicate pictorial scheme of horsehair tapestries is another thing. And this there a real skill of horsehair tapestry maker demonstrates itself.”

Earlier experimentations with dying horsehair with henna or using some yarn were rejected by the weavers. Weavers deliberately refused to use any types of dyes. Instead tapestry weavers use other devices to provide richness: the texture of tapestry, unique methods of weaving by treating the warp in a certain way or by spinning weft hair differently, the use of only mane or tail hair or of some combination, adding some volume by weaving in an intentionally “loose” manner and adding three dimensional parts (as in “Spring” and “Flute Tune” sketched by A. Tsybikova or a series “Rain Tune” by B. Dambieva), different type of finishing and approaches to blending natural colours.

The 1980s were a very good time for the development of tapestries. Commissions followed one after the other and horsehair tapestry quickly became a part of public buildings and a distinguished feature of interior design in Buriatia. One can see them in libraries and airports, hotels and theaters. But this period of interest and governmental financial support ceased with fall of the Soviet Union.

In the 90-s weavers faced a very difficult time: no commissions, private or state, since the economic situation in the country became devastating. Weavers have been forced to find some other means to support themselves and their families. The regular exhibits that played a very important role in the creative search and development of tapestry have ceased to be organized, and only limited number of tapestries were created in the 1990s.

It does seem that a gradual revival of interest in this art is now taking place. With a slow improvement of the economy and the development of a middle class in Russia, weavers have regained some interest again and a few private commissions are making their life easier. It is not possible say whether it will become a “new trend” and it is not possible to foresee the way Buryat horsehair tapestries will develop. The artists themselves do feel a strong need to exchange ideas, an opportunity to show and share their creations with each other and the general public.


Baiarma Dambieva recently noted that there has been no new development lately, everybody is “waltzing around the same place.” Some “fresh air” in the form of artistic exchange is desirable and needed. Its is promising that there are a few new apprentices learning “secrets of the trade” from recognized masters. There are no doubts that Buryat weavers have something to share with their knowledge of tradition and their own experience of working with this beautiful natural material of horsehair.



(information on the traditional use of horsehair by the Buryats is from “Things from Horsehair and Yarn Made in Alarskiy Aimak” (in Russian), by R. Myrdygeev, Verkhneudinsk, 1928)
 

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