Tush Kiyiz (pronounced “toosh
Keeyiz”) are wall hangings, or wall panels. Originally used
as decoration in yurts, (the traditional home of the nomadic Kyrgyz),
they are to be found all over central Asia where yurts were used -
including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Upper Xinjiang in China.
Traditional Kyrgyz carpets (Kiyiz), such
as Shyrdaks and Ala-Kiyiz, are made from felt. Tush kiyiz, however, are
not made from felt material but consist of a cloth background onto
which is sewn a montage of bright embroidery designs.
The outline of a pattern is usually laid out on
the piece of cloth to be used – but more experienced
(talented) craftswomen preferred to work without laying out the pattern
first, which gave a greater freedom for improvisation.
Sometimes the design embroidered onto the material
is simply an outline in a form of chain stitch – but in many
older tush kiyiz, the elements of the design are completely filled-in
by row upon row of fine chain stitching. Also, the colours in the older
tush kiyiz tend to be softer than the brighter colours used in more
modern examples – because natural dyes were used.
No two tush kiyiz are alike. Often the work of a
grandmother, who would make one as a present for a young married
couple, some of them have the names of the couple, (or sometimes the
seamstress - sewn into them - Some of them may also have a date sewn
into them). A base or background of soft cloth is used, and
onto this is sewn in relief, to create a montage, what are apparently
abstract designs (but which are often abstract realizations of natural
things, such as plants, flowers and even animals or, rarely,
Some tush kiyiz are folded and made into
containers for clothes and other items - such cloth cupboards being
also hung on walls - these are known as “tegche”
(though tegche are not only made from tush kiyiz and many different
types are found. Some of these tegche lost their functional use as bags
and became purely ornamental).
There are actually two main types of tush kiyiz.
Some are large and one of this type would cover much of a wall. With
this type, the middle of the wall panel is not sewn work but is made
only of the original material base. The sewn montage work appears
around the edge, like a fringe, although triangular shaped pieces of it
will protrude towards the middle of the panel. If you visit a Kyrgyz
home, you will still very often see much larger types hanging on the
Other tush kiyiz are smaller and would be used as
headboards for beds or (since the bed often served also as a divan) as
a divan covering. This type of tush kiyiz is now particularly hard to
find, especially in good condition. Today, sadly, tush kiyiz are
becoming much rarer. Nowadays, very few people live in yurts and
although the tush kiyiz survived the transition into fixed houses, the
skill is dying out as cheaper but less interesting machine made
materials are available and as traditions change. A good tush kiyiz
might have taken several months to make, although probably the
grandmother who made it did not work on the design for more than a few
hours a day, given all her other tasks.
It is now rare to find new tush kiyiz (though new
shyrdaks are still common) and it is also rare to find any that are
older than 40 or 50 years. Machine made variants of tush kiyiz are
obtainable but these are much less interesting. They can easily be
detected by studying their backs because a genuine hand sewn tush kiyiz
will have many discontinuities (broken thread ends) where the needle
was re-threaded as the work progressed