October 22, 2022-May 28, 2023

This in the only exhibit in North America to focus entirely on Kyrgyz reed screens.

These screens and their story were largely unknown outside of Kyrgyzstan while it was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1920-1991). Richly textured and beautiful, reed screens were made by nomadic Kyrgyz women as traditional furnishings for their yurt dwellings.

The exhibit includes a complete display system comprised of interpretive exhibit panels and display supports for the reed screens.



The exhibition contains 13 Kyrgyz screens (chiy)produced in the19th and 20th centuryfrom the Sommer-Krieger Collection:

  • The long kanat chiy were placed between the yurt’s lattice frame and its outer felt covering, helping to insulate against winter cold
  • ashkana chiy function as space dividers, separating the central fire and cooking area from the women’s area where food and utensils are stored.

The screens are made by wrapping unspun dyed wool around tallgrass stems according to a pattern retained only in memory. The full design emerges when the reeds are twined together with binding cords.

The motifs of Kyrgyz reed screens are similar to patterns seen on flatwoven kilims, mosaic felt rugs, and silk ikat fabrics made by Central Asian nomads. Some scholars have suggested that Turkish tribal carpets have their origins in the design and function of these reed screens.

Pile woven and felted textiles from Central Asia are included in the exhibit for design comparison.

The technique is explained through a hands-on reproduction “weaving” frame.


Guest Curator
Dr. John L. Sommer of Fremont, California, was a member of the board of directors of the Textile Arts Council, San Francisco, a trustee of the Textile Museum, Washington, DC, and president of the San Francisco Bay Area Rug Society.




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