skiesoverbishkek

About the skies over Bishkek. And life on the ground.

Things to Learn at the History Museum

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A few weeks ago, the historians went to the History Museum. The National Historical Museum, formerly known as the Lenin Museum, at Ala-Too Square.
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Not to learn about history, this time. Though that visit will make a fascinating blog post another time. This time, to look at shyrdaks, the traditional Kyrgyz felt rugs. The occasion: the semi-annual exhibition at the museum by the Altyn Kol Women’s Handicraft Cooperative, based in Kolchkor, in Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn Province. More about Altyn Kol, and about shyrdaks, here:
http://www.altyn-kol.com/

The sight was breathtaking. The shyrdaks covered -no, graced- the monumental staircase leading up to the exhibition space. I have never spent more time lingering on a museum staircase, surrounded by a sea of bright colors and ornate patterns.

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And the larger-than-life bronze statue of Lenin leading the march toward revolution?

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Merely the side show, that day. Color ruled at the museum that Sunday. The day when felt beat bronze. When the craftswomen of Kolchkor took center stage and the historical figure that changed the course of world history had to get in line to capture the visitor’s attention. When the objects made of wool spread on the bare steps caught one’s eye, not those neatly arranged artifacts protected behind glass in display cases. When rugs became the historical objects that told stories about Kyrgyzstan, not the official documents and artworks selected by curators. When women’s work was, unofficially, celebrated as art. When the products of their labor became, without labels and plaques, the national treasures at the national museum.

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Lenin’s march did not, in the end, lead to a bright future. But the ground he walks on, frozen in time at the museum in Bishkek, never looked brighter.

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