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Timeless traditions

Mogilev’s Ethnography Museum hosts exhibition of Dagestan’s decorative-and-applied art: Pride and Splendour of the Land of Mountains
By Sergey Sokolov

The exhibition features over 200 items from the private collection of Ramazan Makhmudov, who explains, “Dagestan is home to over 100 nationalities and ethnic groups, who have a culture many centuries old. Each village specialises in a certain craft: for example, the walls of the exhibition hall are decorated with Tabasaran rugs, while the glass cases feature metal weaponry from Kizlyar. Kubachi and Gotsatli’s silver decorations, coated with nickel silver, are bedazzling and, beside them, is Balkhar pottery.”

Sadly, everyday life in modern Dagestan tends to feature fewer hand-made items and some skills are now really only used in making tourist souvenirs. Mr. Makhmudov emphasises, “The aim of this exhibition is to embrace traditions and modernity, showing our unique items, including Dagestan’s national clothing. Modern Dagestani brides usually wear European-style gowns these days, but once wore national costume — decorated with a silver belt and necklace. The richer the bride, the more silver she wore.”

It’s hard to imagine the culture of Dagestan without weapons, papakhas (astrakhan hats) and burkas. Some still wear burkas, as Mr. Makhmudov notes, “A well-made burka is weather-proof: a raincoat which is warm in winter and cool in summer. As for weapons, most are produced only as decorations. The skills are passed from generation to generation, although not as widely as in Soviet days. When I was a child, I helped my sisters to make rugs and, although I wasn’t very good at it, my hands still remember the technique. Each square metre of high quality carpet is expensive, costing about 1,000 Euros.”

The exhibition in Mogilev will run until late 2013, then moving to Minsk. It has been already showcased in Gomel, Brest and Vitebsk.
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