Hi folks! Time for the next edition of Cultural Connections – helping us put faces and places to the bits and baubles that we love so much as tribalistas.   So if you’re staring at a wall of shiny lovelies that looks like this then you have the Turkmen people to thank:

 

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The Turkmen people, not to be confused with Turkish people, hail from Turkmenistan in Central Asia:

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There is an umbrella term called Turkic that refers to all of the peoples/tribes from the areas of central, eastern, northern, and western Asia as well as parts of eastern Europe. They share similar languages, with regional differences, that fall under the Turkic language family, and as with peoples who are  physically near each other, there are many cultural traits that are similar, so it can be confusing for sure.  (So Turks are people from the Turkic umbrella family. Turkish people are from Turkey. Turkmens are from Turkmenistan – they have different languages that come from the common stem of Turkic. Clear as mud?)

It’s also worth noting that the European spelling varies: Turkmen, Turkoman, Turkman, etc.

Historically, Turkmen were nomads and their livelihood revolved around horsemanship and breeding. There was a proverb that said:

 The Turkmen’s home was where his horse happened to stand.

But that changed during the Soviet era, when nomads were encouraged to conform to a shared national image standard. There is, however a tribe in the southern region that is still famous for their Akhal-Teke desert horse breeding style and standard.   The Akhal-Teke horse is the national symbol of Turkmenistan.

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Turkmens have a fabulous relationship with their clothing and jewelry. Everything is rich with symbolism, from the color of a woman’s dress to the emblems etched in a ring.

Ok, so check this out.  If you’re a young Turkic gal, you develop a fondness for your fashion far beyond  your average American fashionista.    Women go through three phases of dress: first, a young girl receives a dark dressing gown richly embroidered with spring flowers – the promise of beauty, health and fertility.

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A grown woman dresses in a yellow gown to symbolize the warmth of the sun in zenith enveloping the woman’s whole family.  Oak leaves were traditionally embroidered on this gown to symbolize strength and longevity.

 

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As the woman approaches her 63rd year, she changes to white gowns embroidered with desert plants. Over time, the designs become less crowded to create “space of lie” for new generations to come.   I can’t express how much I love this concept.

Then there’s the headgear:  A tall hat indicates she is married. Single girls wore caps. Belled caps signified they were from fairly wealthy families whose father demanded a high bride price.

The men don’t miss out on the embroidered symbolism either – their clothes are adorned with various birds and animals.  One with birds would serve as a reminder to “fly free as a bird.”  Figures. And men traditionally wore huge sheepskin hats called a telpek.

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 Ajap Bairiev, a Turkmen ethnographer, wrote: “Head-wear is one of the most interesting elements of the Turkmen national costume…The hats’ big diversity, their strict functions combined with old symbolic meaning and bright decorative nature, symbolic and magic meaning of the ornaments attest to their ancient origin..

 

Well, that’s all the time we have for today – I know we’re just dipping our toes into the river of information that could be shared, but this is onlly a 3-minute ethnography after all.   All week I’ll be sharing gorgeous photos of Turkoman jewelry used in fashion, bellydance costumes, and even home decor.  Plus places where you can score beautiful pieces for your collection.  And send me photos of your own pieces!   Be sure to follow on Facebook and Instagram!

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