Skip to content

5 Things To Know About Ikats

/ Exhibitions

Robe, Uzbekistan, Ikat-dyed silk or cotton, Loan from the Collection of Peggy Slappey. 82.2013
Robe Uzbekistan Ikat dyed silk or cotton Loan from the Collection of Peggy Slappey 822013

Our ikat exhibition All the Colors of the Rainbow closes on July 10, giving you just two weeks to see it before it’s gone! The robes present a brilliant spectrum of colors and intricate detail, which has not been diminished since their creation over 100 years ago. Before you visit this collection of over 60 robes, hats, shoes, and other accessories from Uzbekistan, here are five things you need to know about the ikats on display:

  1. The “Silk Road” was a key trading route for ikats.
    Modern Uzbekistan includes many of the great cities of the ancient Silk Road. It has been an important crossroad for trade for centuries. The very term “Silk Road” defines one of the principal goods carried through Central Asia from China to the Mediterranean Sea coast: silk. Used as currency and a luxury good, literally millions of bolts of silk changed hands over the centuries. Relatively lightweight, easy to transport, and desirable, silk was a staple product of trade.
  2. The robes incorporate a rainbow of colors.
    Red, green, yellow, purple, blue, pink- almost every color imaginable is found in the ikat robes produced in Uzbekistan during the nineteenth century. These were used as clothing, decoration, and gifts.
  3. Ikats are the original tie-dye.
    The name ikat comes from the Malaysian word “menjikat” meaning to tie. This complex dyeing technique developed independently in several parts of the world; South America, Japan, Indonesia, India, and western Central Asia are the most important.
  4. Dozens of skilled workers are required to produce ikats.
    The making of ikat begins with the production of silk. Women raised the silk worms that were then sold in the bazaars to men who in turn unwound them into thread that was then dyed and finally woven into cloth. Clothing showed rank and status in the oasis communities. The wealthiest people wore costly, bright silk ikats, while those in lesser positions wore similar robes made of cotton.
  5. This is the Museum’s first Central Asian exhibit.
    The Museum has hosted and originated many exhibitions concerning various aspects of Asian art over the years, but never one about Central Asia and certainly not one about Uzbekistan textiles. Robes, shoes, hats, bags, and jewelry are all included in the exhibition. We are proud to expand our horizons and to present for the first time these wonderful treasures from the collection of Peggy Slappey.