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The world, and especially the West, is becoming more interested in Uzbekistan, its economy and culture. During the visit of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to France, at the invitation of the President of France Emmanuel Macron, the heads of the two states opened two major exhibitions depicting Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage: “The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases. At the Crossroads of Caravan Routes” in the Louvre and “The Road to Samarkand. Miracles of Silk and Gold” at the Arab World Institute.

The unprecedented cultural project was initiated by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev during his first visit to France in October 2018. The event when a country exhibits a large-scale national exposition simultaneously in two locations is unprecedented among the CIS countries.

Both exhibitions are dedicated to Uzbekistan’s history and culture. The exhibition in the Louvre covers the 5th-6th centuries BC to the reign of the Timurids, and the Arab World Institute presents exhibits of the 19th – mid-20th centuries, as well as paintings of the Turkestan avant-garde from the collection of Uzbekistan state museums.

The exhibitions are of historical significance for intercultural cooperation between Uzbekistan and France and offer a wide audience to discover the region’s unique culture.

A special commission was established to prepare both exhibitions. It was led by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which included the Director of the Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan and project consultant Shokir Pidayev, Director of the Center for Islamic Civilization Shoazim Minovarov, ministers, scientists, archaeologists, as well as directors and curators of museums from which it was planned to borrow exhibits.

Major restoration work began. More than 70 items have been restored especially for the exhibition since 2018. A team was involved in the project, including more than 40 restorers in paper, wood, metal, sculpture, glass and wall painting from France and Uzbekistan, including Marina Reutova, Kamoliddin Mahkamov, Shukhrat Pulatov, Christine Parisel, Olivier Tavoso, Delphine Lefebvre, Geraldine Frey, Axel Delau, Anne Liege, and others.

Particularly difficult and interesting was the restoration and conservation of the Kattalangar Quran pages of the 8th century. This Quran has tremendous religious significance for Islam and Muslims and is one of the values ​​that constitute the cultural and historical heritage of all mankind.

The manuscript was written on parchment in one of the oldest forms of Arabic script – Kufi and Hijazi handwriting. The average page size is 53×35 cm. For a long time, the Quran was kept in the Langar Ota mosque in Qamashi district of Kashkadarya region.

The Quran was restored from 2019 to 2021 by the Louvre experts. As follows from the description, the pages were very dry before restoration. The sheets became wavy, and a lot of dust accumulated on them. The restorers began the conservation process by cleaning each page. The book was in poor condition due to severe deformation. The total number of pages of the Quran was 208. There are 17 pages in Uzbekistan. The exhibition presents 2 pages. They include Surah Al-Maidah (verses 106-120) and Surah Al-An’am (verses 1-32).

The restoration work lasted three years and was made possible largely thanks to the personal support of Saida Mirziyoyeva, who then held the position of Deputy Director of the Agency for Information and Mass Communications. Initially, it was planned to restore only 2 pages, and it was Saida Shavkatovna who insisted on restoring all 13 pages.

The National Library of Uzbekistan named after Alisher Navoi, the Art and Culture Development Foundation under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan were involved in the restoration of this unique document. The work was carried out by the restorers of the Louvre Museum Axel Delau and Aurelia Streri.

Our editors talked with a large team of organizers who implemented these two major exhibitions, which for the next six months will become the main hallmark of Uzbekistan in Europe.

In 2009, archaeologist and researcher Rocco Rante led an archaeological mission in Bukhara in collaboration with the team of Samarkand Archeology Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Sometime later, unique Zoroastrian carved panels were discovered as part of other excavations in Samarkand region, which were also carried out jointly with French experts.

According to archaeologists, the find was a world-class discovery. It is assumed that the country palace of the rulers of pre-Islamic times (until the 8th century) was located at the excavation site.

Front rooms were discovered in the citadel, most of which were occupied by a three-tiered podium, where, according to scientists, the ruler sat on the throne, and the panel just adorned the walls of the hall. It became clear that Uzbekistan could show the world something very valuable from a historical and cultural point of view.

Carved charred panel from the settlement of Kafir-Kala (7th-8th centuries AD). During the excavations of the Kafir-Kala citadel (Samarkand region), a parade-monumental complex richly decorated with paintings and wooden details was revealed. The citadel was destroyed by a strong fire, which occurred here, as the researchers assume, between 712 and 738 years during the conquest by the Arabs.

In 2017, a Japanese-Uzbek archaeological expedition, while studying one of the found rooms, which was a small throne room, discovered large parts of the decor made of carved charred wood. The panel was in poor condition, but was restored by a Louvre expert from 2019 to 2022 and is currently in stable condition.

According to the curators of the exhibition, the wooden panel is a unique masterpiece of Sogdian art. A composition of 46 human figures arranged in four tiers is carved on the boards on the front side. The main plot of the composition is a mass ritual of deity worship. There is a large figure of the goddess Nana in the center of the two upper tiers, sitting on a throne in the form of a lying lion.

The scientific curator of the exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, Rocco Rante, believes that the display of hundreds of rare exhibits will allow “Europeans and Americans to have a better understanding of what Uzbekistan is like”.

Q: As the curator of the exhibition, would you please tell us what its emphasis will be?

Rocco Rante: “The exhibition has two main goals. First, it is to show the civilization and culture of Central Asia in Europe. And Paris is the best place for this, because here is one of the leading museums in the world – the Louvre.

The second goal is to show the close historical connection between Central Asia and Europe. After all, these two regions have a lot of common historical moments.

In addition, the exhibition has an educational meaning for European and French societies to get to know Central Asia better. After all, its culture has an important place in human civilization and is rich in significant historical figures”.

Q: Each exhibition is special, and yet there is something that will be unique to this one dedicated to Uzbekistan…

  1. R.: “Exhibition “The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases. At the Crossroads of Caravan Routes”is unique. We are exhibiting such rare exhibits from Uzbekistan in France and Europe in general for the first time. There are more than 130 of them, and some of them were found quite recently. This exhibition is the result of great efforts, restoration work and scientific research.

I think that such an exhibition will not be repeated in the next 30 years”.

Q: Would you please tell us about the organizational moments?

  1. R.: To make the exhibition “The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases. At the Crossroads of Caravan Routes”extraordinary, we came up with special effects that will immerse the audience in its atmosphere. For example, the first thing a visitor will see from the exposition is a 7th-century wall panel from Varakhsha. It depicts an elephant with riders being attacked by two tigers. While the public is looking at this exhibit, they will be able to hear the sounds of the wind, the roar of animals and others. At the same time, the light in the hall will be dimmed, and the panel, on the contrary, will be highlighted. Thus, the impression of the presence at the scene of the depicted events will be created.

Historical monuments of Samarkand architecture, such as the Bibi Khanum Mosque, the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the Shakhi-Zinda memorial ensemble, the Ulugbek Observatory, will also be presented in a special way. Their images will be projected onto the wall. Music will play in the background, and the lights will dim. The viewer’s attention with the help of the camera will be focused on some individual elements: turquoise tones of majolica, carved patterns, etc.

“We managed to bring together the best specialists from France and Uzbekistan to realize the first exhibition project of Uzbekistan in the Louvre. Covering a period of almost two millennia, the exhibition reveals our country’s rich history and heritage to an international audience. The exhibition is the main form of international cultural exchange, it is a dialogue and integration of different cultures in a global context. Exhibitions in Paris naturally expand the mission of the Foundation to preserve and promote our culture, and also lay a solid foundation for our bilateral cooperation in the future”, the Executive Director of the Art and Culture Development Foundation under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Gayane Umerova said.

Director of the Center for Islamic Civilization in Uzbekistan Shoazim Minovarov also spoke about the importance of the exhibition.

– 60 million tourists visit France a year. More than 10 million people visit the Louvre. The fact that Uzbekistan will be represented at such a large-scale exhibition will make our country more recognizable, increase interest in it, its culture and its history. This will serve as a great advertisement for the development of tourism. The better people get to know each other through exhibitions, mutual communication, the stronger mutual trust is. And trust opens the door to other cooperation areas.

As Saida Mirziyoyeva noted, Uzbekistan has always been a place of cultural exchange and trade, and the Great Silk Road has become, in a sense, the first global economic project.

Covering about two thousand years, the exhibition at the Louvre will provide a multifaceted view of the culture of various civilizations that existed on the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, and will also show the country’s unique heritage in the global cultural context, which is one of our main tasks”, Shoazim Minovarov said.

“The Road to Samarkand. Miracles of Silk and Gold”

The exposition of this exhibition, consisting of more than 300 exhibits from 9 museums of the Republic of Uzbekistan, includes objects of applied art, which are important elements of Uzbek identity and diversity.

Visitors can become acquainted with samples of national textiles, costumes, hats, jewelry of the 19th – mid-20th centuries, gold-embroidered chapans of the era of the Bukhara Emirate, carpets and much more, made in various techniques.

The exhibition also presents 23 paintings, including works of the Turkestan avant-garde from the collection of the State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan named after I. V. Savitsky in Nukus. Between 1917 and 1932, Turkestan was a particularly popular geographical destination among Russian avant-garde artists. At the time when Matisse was discovering Morocco, avant-garde artists in search of “local color” found for themselves a unique source of inspiration in the richness of landscapes, forms and faces of Central Asia.

One of the most interesting exhibits here can be a tobelik, a traditional headdress of a Karakalpak woman in the 17th-18th centuries. Tobelik has a cylindrical shape, assembled from silver plates with coral and turquoise inserts. It is believed that it served as an additional decoration, a kind of crown, which was worn on a saukele – a wedding headdress.

Kimesheks are also presented here. This is also a women’s national headdress. Kimeshekcompletely covers the head, while the face remains open. It looks like a hood. Married women wore kimesheks of specific colors, thereby emphasizing their status.

Undoubtedly, the attention of visitors will be attracted by arebeks – small nose rings. They were made of gold and decorated with spiral curls, small turquoise and coral beads. Arebeks were worn on the right wing of the nose by young Karakalpak women, and these decorations are not found anywhere else on the territory of Uzbekistan. If you draw parallels, they can be recognized as an analog of modern piercing.

Among the selected paintings are paintings by Ural Tansikbayev, Victor Ufimtsev, Nadejda Kashina. There are paintings by Alexander Volkov, Alexei Isupov, and others. Despite the unique style of writing each of them, all the paintings are inspired and united by one theme – the East and its color. So, having seen, for example, the painting by Nikolai Karakhan “Teahouse near the house under the elms”, the viewer can immediately understand how people of that time dressed and how they rested, their way of life, and the surrounding nature.

A very interesting painting by Victor Ufimtsev “Oriental Motif”. A native of Siberia, the artist, as he became acquainted with Central Asia, gradually mastered the traditional art of Islam. This work is a free modernist stylization of a Muslim miniature, which reproduces the classic banquet scene. The painting depicts two women at rest, towards which a man with a vessel is moving. It seems that the Western viewer, looking at this canvas, will be able to appreciate how high the respect for women has always been in the East.

It should be noted that the entire collection as a whole, presented by the Savitsky Museum, is designed to reveal all the diversity, originality and charm of oriental culture and Uzbekistan in particular. And it is very symbolic that it will be presented at the Arab World Institute, located in the famous European capital. This once again proves that the West and the East can perfectly coexist and enrich each other.

One of the curators of the exhibition, the head of the French publishing house Assouline Publishing, Yaffa Assouline, and photographer Laziz Hamani, provided great assistance in creating the exposition. For three years they traveled across the region to search and collect materials for publications about Uzbekistan. The exhibition “The Road to Samarkand. Miracles of Silk and Gold” became a living illustration of these books.

All exhibits of the exhibitions presented by Uzbekistan in Paris will be returned to their homeland. Their safety and security are guaranteed by the French Ministry of Culture. They are also insured under the “nail-to-nail” system.

Speaking about the upcoming exhibitions, it should be noted that on October 25, an agreement was signed between the Art and Culture Development Foundation and Berlin State Museums on the joint organization of an exhibition in Berlin in 2023.

An agreement to organize an exhibition “Uzbekistan – from Alexander the Great to the Kushan Empire” was signed by the Executive Director of the Foundation Gayane Umerova and the Director of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History (Berlin State Museums) Matthias Wemhoff.

The exhibition will be held at the James Simon Gallery from April 21 to October 1, 2023. It will include 270 archaeological exhibits from various museums of Uzbekistan.

The gallery is located on the museum island. The project of the gallery is developed by the outstanding architect David Chipperfield. The gallery is a member of the Berlin State Museums.

 

 

Source: Kyrgyz National News Agency