Uzbek Tubeteika
National Arts and Crafts of Uzbekistan

One of the most popular and widely practiced national applied art forms of Uzbekistan has always been the tubeteika, which is a soft or hard scull-cap with a soft lining. The tubeteika is an integral part of the Uzbek national costume and is worn in modern everyday life, as it was in the past.

The name "tubeteika" derives from the Turkish word meaning "a top, a summit". It is not only the Uzbek national headgear. It is worn by other peoples in Central Asia, in Afganistan, Iran, Turkey, Sinkiang, by the Tatars of Povolzhie, and by the Bashkirs.

The history of the tubeteika is centuries-old. Evidence of headgear similar to tubeteika, worn in ancient times, has been found in sculpture, numismatics, wall paintings, terracotta statuettes, and book miniatures of the 15th-16th centuries.The oldest of known embroidered tubeteikas, stored in museum collections, date from the middle of the 19th century.

The tubeteika is divided into types for men, women, children (for boys, girls, and babies), and old men. Old women don't wear the headgear. Children's tubeteikas (called "kulokcha, kalpokcha, duppi, kulupush") differ in the variety of materials and colours, in cap bands, fluffiness of tassels and balls made of silk or paper threads, in patterns embroidered, spangles and number of amulets.

The most common form of the Uzbek tubeteika is tetrahedral and slightly conical. Such a form is assumed due to the special method of folding the cap right after the making of it has been finished. Tubeteikas are made of two or more layers of fabrics, all quilted and stuck with silk or cotton threads. In most cases, ready-made caps would be embroidered with silk, or gold or silver threads.

Being a symbol of life and fertility, the almond-shaped pattern called "badom" is the most common on the cap. The thinner and longer variant of the "bodom" is called "kalampir" translated as "pepper". The almonds and peppers are depicted in the national arts for the protection from evil spirits, as is commonly believed in Uzbekistan. Flowers and fruits, and vegetation patterns supplemented with colourful birds are also very often embroidered on tubeteikas. Sometimes embroideries have integrally intertwined Arabic letters of aphorisms, good wishes, and sayings, which intensify the aesthetic value.

Since long ago, it has been mainly women who have had the skills of artistic embroidery. Every embroideress, aside from copying already known motifs, often creates new and original compositions of patterns and colours, which makes every tubeteika unique.

Tubeteikas differ in shape, pattern, and color depending on the region where they are made. For example, duppies from Chust have "steep" patterns and are tall; tubeteikas from the Fergana Valley have plain patterns; Samarkand varieties are distinguished by the methods of embroidery, unique patterns and colors; gold-embroidered Bukhara caps have always been popular for the richness of their decoration.

Thus, within the tradition, a wide variety of patterns embroidered on tubeteikas have been developed throughout the centuries.

Articles about Uzbek tubeteyka in local and Central Asian travel magazines:

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