Antique Yomud Asmalyk
The tree or feather type Yomud asmalyk has always puzzled me. The “trees” seemed to be something indefinite and impossible to define. Almost every other old Turkman design had revealed its object or set of objects to reveal its inner or hidden meaning to me.
I had thought for a long time that someday I would run across a “tree” asmalyk of sufficient age or character to reveal the inner meaning of this design tradition. When I finally found what I was looking for it turned up on a rare seven-sided Eagle Gull asmalyk.
This eagle gull asmalyk has an elem and I believe this is a feature unique to this genre of asmalyk. I always try and read the white patterns first and it is very important to me that the white makes obvious sense. In other words I have found in truly old Turkman weaving that the white is always carefully patterned and meaningful. The main border of this asmalyk is composed of ordinary elements, ashik forms and the “W” shape of flying birds. The weaver of this asmalyk has so positioned these elements that a central white diamond shape with upper and lower ‘buds’ is the first thing one notices when first looking at this section of the main border. The horizontal main border is arranged to look like a series of reflected jagged white forms or a continuous set of joined ashik forms. On first glace the elem’s white ground image complexes reads like this. The largest forms are two reflected white triangles with eye “spots” that form the outline of a large head connected to a very small body underneath. In this elem are also pairs of colored animals surrounding a central pole or cosmic tree. This is a very familiar image to students of Central Asian iconography. The white between these two animal forms is shaped like the feathers of an arrow as it flies through the air. The blue and red animal forms are separate from the central pole except at the very top, which makes the arrow form complete. The connected line would be the white arrow’s nock. The two animal form’s front legs are raised up as if the animals were about to butt heads and the legs also form the outline of the white arrows feathers. The animal forms have large triangular heads and are otherwise smooth except underneath there is a small triangle. The presence of this triangle makes me think it represents the animal’s penis. The total white pattern underneath a pair of associated animals including the central pole can represent the yurt.
Culturally this depth of design patterning is indicative of a very long tradition. Sometime in the 19th century this tradition was lost and simplified by weavers who no longer knew what the pattern represented. The eagle gull asmalyk we are studying may well be an 18th century weaving. Only one other example with clear animal forms has surfaced. This asmalyk has been extensively studied and commented upon by a large group of my friends. Seref Ozun called it the best example of the type.
Among the later Yomud asmalyks having a similar organization of motifs I have never seen a single one with such archaic drawing and deep meaningfulness. It is interesting to note that the roughly pentagonal shape of the leg and foot of the animals in the eagle gull asmalyk are retained in loose association with the degenerate serrated forms of all later Yomud “tree” type asmalyks.
Additionally the scale of the white ground ashiks is quite large. The natural white wool is balanced with a fiery and vivid red. This red is a very old color and I associate it with the mid to later 18th century. It is madder with a tin mordant as I recall. Another special feature is the way the weaver made the top most peak "jut-out" to seemingly hang over the central top most ashik. I haven't seen such a special perceptual trick on any other member of this entire group. In other words the weaver has rendered her designs in somewhat of a three dimensional space. This rare and finely woven Yomud group (eagle gull type 2) asmalyk is a superb collectors piece and highly sought after.
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