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Currently In The Gellhorn Gallery at Interplayers


Featured Artist: Anne Marie Burk

Anne Marie Burk is a teacher of English as a foreign language. She has lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia, and travelled throughout Central Asia and Russia as a teacher-trainer.

From 2003 to 2005, I lived in Kyrgyzstan, a small mountainous nation in Central Asia. While there I became fascinated with the beautiful, historical textiles called “tush kyiz” ( pronounced tush keys, literally “wall embroideries”). They are large, elaborately embroidered wall hangings that hung inside the yurts of Kyrgyzstan to symbolize the family’s pride in their heritage and Kyrgyz culture, They were made generations ago by elder women—master seamstresses called “saimachy ”who would spend months and perhaps years to create a tush kyiz as a marriage gift to sons and daughters. It would hang over the marriage bed as a blessing for happiness in marriage and a reminder to the couple to take pride in their Kyrgyz heritage.

I was enthralled with the unique artistry and extraordinary workmanship in these textiles. Through research and interviews, I have learned what these treasures once meant to the nomadic Kyrgyz people The designs within them are symbols of nomadic philosophy and ideals: fertility is very important, and nurturing is prized. It is important to cherish the young, live in joy and appreciation of life, have a happy marriage, strive toward goals, achieve spiritual power, and live in balance and harmony.

The tush kyiz wall hanging would be the first thing a visitor sees upon entering the yurt. It would be proudly displayed as a family legacy, whose designs, symbols and colors revealed the originality and imagination of the Kyrgyz people. Each in its own way reflects the nomad’s spiritual beliefs, including a desire for protection, prosperity, fertility, and balance. One amazing aspect of tush kyiz is that each one is the saimachy’s vision of her culture and her personal interpretation. Each creation is unique.  

Displaying the family tush kyiz was an honored tradition when the Kyrgyz people were nomads, from 800 AD to the 1920s. When they were absorbed by the Soviet Union in 1923 their nomadic life was over and the Kyrgyz were forcibly settled onto collective farms. The Soviet ideal was to eliminate ethnic traditions and mold the people into modern Soviet citizens. Ethnic arts were ridiculed as hopelessly old-fashioned and unworthy of a citizen’s time and effort. During the 70 years of Soviet rule the tradition of making tush kyiz slowly vanished. Today it is a lost art.

The complete tush kyiz are very large, usually 5 x 10 feet. Most of the pieces you see here are parts of disassembled tush kyiz. I acquired them in this condition and do not know why they were taken apart. However, as smaller pieces, they still convey their cultural significance while being somewhat easier to display.

Works in the Gellhorn Gallery are for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Interplayers Theatre.  The gallery is open during box office hours.

To learn more visit Anne’s site at: