Silk Road

The Silk Road, which stretched from China to Turkey and from there into Europe, crossing the deserts and mountains of Central Asia, linked flourishing trade and cultural centers that brought the East and West together. The Mariposa’s exhibition which runs through early January will focus on the route itself and the great cultures that grew up around it: China, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and “the Stans” former republics of the Soviet Union. Many programs and performances are also scheduled that will celebrate those cultures, the historical importance of the Silk Road and the significance of this region today.

Inlaid Box

Inlaid Box

Inlaid Box

A superb inlaid box, lent to us by Jean Rosenthal, exemplifies the exquisite design work of Iran. Less than 8″ long, the box is decorated with intricate inlay of wood, bone and metal. The artisans showed Jean how the metal inlay is applied: bundles of very thin metal wires are bound and sliced into thin sections to produce a design similar to the “millefiore” design of Venetian glass.

Silk Hat

Kashgar Silk Hat

Kashgar Silk Hat

Ray Bollerud of Harrisville traveled the Silk Road in May and June, 2011. He brought back this hat of the Uigur people from Kashgar, the great market city in Xinjiang, China. Ray will talk about his trip at 7PM on Friday, September 9. Click here to see his slide show of a Kirghiz family constructing a yurt.

Opera Masks

Opera Masks

Opera Masks

Ideas as well as goods traveled along the Silk Road. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and other faiths moved along the vast network of trade routes that made up the Silk Road. Music, stories, inventions and visual art traveled with the caravans along this great cultural highway.

You will find the traffic in goods and ideas represented in the two library window displays, “China” and “Trade”, as well as in the library case where these two masks from the Chinese opera flank a box containing 66 miniature opera masks — plentiful inspiration for face painting!

Ree-Ven Wang performs her program of Chinese folk dance and song at Mariposa at 7PM on Saturday, September 17. Her program includes pieces from the Uigur and Tajik minorities in western China. This program, sponsored by the Gallup Foundation, is part of “Along the Silk Road”, open until January 16, 2012.

Turkish Silk Spindle

Turkish Silk Spindle

Turkish Silk Spindle

Jean Rosenthal brought this elegantly incised drop spindle back from Turkey on one of her trips along the Silk Road. It comes from the Anatolian plateau where herders have kept sheep for millennia. The spindle twists wool into yarn when given a brisk spin. It comes apart in three pieces for easy storage — a model of beauty, ingenuity and utility.

If you’d like to see this spindle in use, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB_QroahZ2c. This is one of many links on our website under “YouTube / QR Codes” that offer you the sights and sounds of the Silk Road.

Chinese Market Scale

Chinese Market Scale

Chinese Market Scale

A tiny scale used to weigh gold, jewels and opium in a Chinese market nestles into an elegantly designed wooden case. Jean Rosenthal brought this back from one of her journeys along the Silk Road. She will talk about her recent trip to Iran, in the spring of this year, on Friday, October 14 at 7PM. She titles her talk “Myth and Reality: A Trip to Iran.”

China will be the focus of the 2PM program on Sunday, October 16, when Li Min Mo tells stories from the Silk Road and introduces us to Tai Chi. This program is for all ages and especially for families. While at Mariposa, you can enjoy a new gallery exhibition of textiles from the Silk Road.

Georgian Drinking Horn

Georgian Drinking Horn

Georgian Drinking Horn

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that extended in all directions, not only on the east-west axis between China and the Mediterranean. One of the routes led up through the Caucasus into Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Maureen Ahern and the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College have lent us this drinking horn from Georgia. The Thorne is the sister museum of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi and has loaned a number of artifacts to “Along the Silk Road” at Mariposa. A beautifully worked duck with two blue eyes of semiprecious stone closes a hole at the pointed end of the horn. Maureen explains that when the horn is filled and the end is unstopped, the owner must drain the horn at one go!

On Friday, November 21 at 7PM, Javed Chaudhri will talk about another feeder route of the Silk Road, that which crossed the Karakorum and connected Pakistan and India with the main route in Central Asia. He will share fascinating stories of the ancient Silk Road and the much newer Great Karakorum Highway, the modern Silk Road, linking Central Asia with the Arabian Sea.

Uzbek Pamper

Uzbek Pamper

Uzbek Pamper

These hollow wooden pipes look like musical instruments but are not — unless the sound of a baby urinating is music to your ears! They direct the flow of a baby’s urine through a hole in the bottom of a crib into a chamber pot below. The upper pipe is for a little boy, the lower for a little girl. Jean Rosenthal took a photo of an elegant woman in an Uzbek market holding both pipe and pot. You’ll find this in our library case. We are not clear how the pipe is attached to the proper point on a baby’s anatomy!

You can hear real music of the Silk Road at 7PM on Saturday evening, October 29 when 35th Parallel, the duo of multi-instrumentalists Gabe Halberg and Mac Ritchey, performs at Mariposa.

Turkish Coffee Roaster

Turkish Coffee Roaster

Turkish Coffee Roaster

Caravans traveled the Silk Road carrying coffee beans and cylindrical coffee mills that produced the fine grounds needed for “Turkish” coffee. Jean Rosenthal found that they also roasted their coffee beans along the way in this folding metal coffee roaster from Turkey. It hinges in two places and is inscribed with simple geometric designs — useful and beautiful.

We cannot promise you Turkish coffee but we can promise you a wonderful evening of dance on Saturday, November 5. At 7 PM, Mavi Dance of Boston will perform dances of Turkey and Central Asia, a colorful repertoire that we rarely see in New England. Please join us!

Bread Stamp

Bread Stamp

Bread Stamp

“A baker in Central Asia uses this implement to stamp a design into large discs of flat bread. Jean Rosenthal’s slide show on her 1988 trip along the Silk Road to Kashgar shows this bread being made and sold. You can see the slide show on our website under “YouTube” or at the museum on either the library or the upstairs gallery computer.

Steppe Couple

Steppe Couple

Steppe Couple

This finely dressed couple from the steppes of Central Asia wear the beautiful ikat dyed and woven fabrics that you see clothing the mannequins on the main floor of Mariposa.

The people who wore these silk and cotton garments moved to the rhythm of music from the steppes and deserts of their homelands.

Kazakh Camel

Kazakh Silk Camel

Kazakh Silk Camel

The camels of Central Asia are the two-humped Bactrians, still important in the rural economy of the steppes as beasts of burden and providers of milk, dung, wool and meat. The people who tend these camels often live in yurts or “gers”, structures made from a collapsible frame covered by large strips of dense felt.

A yurt can be used year round, as a stove in the middle is used for heat and cooking with a hole in the roof serving as the chimney. The walls of felt can be rolled up in hot weather to let in the breeze. Yurts are moved from place to place and reassembled, a small one in an hour and a half. A family’s yurt is colorful and spacious inside, with room on the west side for the men and honored guests with the saddles and tools, and for women and children on the east with the bedding, rugs, cookware and food.

Rug Tool

Silk Rug Tool

Silk Rug Tool

This metal implement with wooden handle is used in the manufacture of the knotted rugs made through Central Asia. The teeth fit between the vertical warp threads and when the tool is pulled down, the teeth press the knots together into a denser pile.

What function do the six metal rings serve? They are musical, for as the tool is used, they jingle and mark the rhythm of the work.