In Kyrgyz culture, the color white occurs in various meanings and descriptions. Usually it is associated with purity and goodness in contrast to black, which is evil.
This value goes back for many years, and in Kyrgyz language it is called “Ak”. People highlighted the white color as a very spiritual and significant color in their everyday life. It was noticed on their clothes, in their food, and in their sayings and beliefs. They wore white color hats known as elechek, or kalpak, with pride because it represented the spirit of mountains and grand glaciers. They did not welcome any dark colors on heads.
As now, people still follow this culture of white. National drinks such as kymyz, airan, and bread have always had high values in Kyrgyz culture. Coincidentally, perhaps, they are all white and extra attention is paid to not pollute them.
Moreover, we use the word “white” in many wise proverbs that help in people’s lives. One of the more often used collocations is “Ak jol” meaning “White road”, which can represent various situations and meanings.
Metaphorically, a person’s life is seen as one long way. Sometimes, parents name their baby boy “Akjol”, wishing his life to be pleasant, joyful, and open for opportunities without challenges. People believe in the correlation of name with the life of a person. Thus, people try to affect the destiny of the person through making wishes and asking the Lord to bring them true.
One of the super valuable traditions of Kyrgyz people is elders giving bata - wishes to young people. When elders say their wishes, they use the phrase “ak jol”, meaning they wish success to follow you and always bring luck. By saying “don’t lose your white way,” they urge young people to live a worthy life.
Another common situation in when “ak jol” is directed toward a graduate from high school or university. These are turning periods in young people’s lives. As they leave one place, they do not know what is waiting for them at the next destination. Thus, friends, relatives, and teachers express their hopes toward the student that they achieve goals, live a just life, and have all their dreams come true on their way.
Last, but not least, there is a literal meaning of “ak jol”. Long trips by airplane or any other transportation might be dangerous for the person’s life. Therefore, people ask God to make their travel safe and easy.
All the situations make sense in terms of what people wish to each other and how they support each other with the help of this versatile phrase: “Ak jol!”
Felt and Silk Designs
Innovative and impressive examples of Kyrgyz creativity can be seen at local craft fairs and in souvenir shops. In this example, the process of soaking, rolling and pressing the felt is combined with a fine layer of silk and dried leaves. The impression of the leaves remains in the silk, as the silk fuses with the felt.
Shyrdaks | Traditional Kyrgyz Rugs
Shyrdaks are the Turkish carpet of Central Asia. One large rug can take 8-12 months to complete, with a group of women working together to create the multilayered, intricately stitched, piece of art. These shyrdaks remain in a family over many generations, gently softening and blending in their designs with use and wear.
Embroidery and Stitching
Most often seen on clothing, bold, prominent stitching gracefully curves into a multitude of patterns, most of which reflect natural elements. Flowers, birds, the sun, rivers, and other animals will often be portrayed on jackets and vests, but also boots, hats, bags, and household linens. Like shyrdaks, this handiwork takes many hours of patient work, but remains in
Assistant Editor and Social Media Manager @ White Leopard Travel Co.
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