Across China: Blooming marvel -- Uygur embroiderer stitches floral dream
URUMQI, July 18 (Xinhua) -- When Kader Rahman of the ethnic Uygur group, 46, sits down to transform silken strands of colored thread into beautiful flowers, he enters a true state of flow.
"These are my favorite moments of the day. Embroidery makes all my troubles melt away, and I am oblivious to everything going on around me," the Uygur man explained to Xinhua from his studio in Qiaomaizhuangzi Village, Hami City, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
When he is sewing, it is hard to imagine that those agile hands were once used to tend his crops in his former life as a farmer. Today, he is a different type of guardian as he helps to preserve Xinjiang's only state-protected intangible cultural heritage -- the art of Hami embroidery.
As Hami was an important post on the ancient Silk Road, the city, as a result, absorbed cultures from the east and the west. This cultural patchwork has also influenced the patterns and colors used by Hami embroiderers.
"Hami embroidery features classic Han designs, such as peony, fingered citron, lotus, chrysanthemum and plum blossom; coupled with distinctive motifs unique to the area," said Cui Jianbing, head of the Hami Cultural Center.
Kader was taught simple embroidery pattern design and paper cutting by women of his family when he was seven. His obvious talent was noticed by his mother and sister, both of whom are locally-renowned embroiderers, and they would use his paper-cuttings as inspiration for their own work. Little Kader, who was concerned about being caught doing a "women's job," however, used to hide when he studied embroidery.
Every year, as a gift to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Kader's sister, Ayihan Rahman, would embroider a floral skull cap for her father. In 2007, Ayihan died suddenly, leaving the whole family heartbroken. The first year without his sister, near the end of Eid, Kader came home from tending his fields to find his mother, Xirenhan Hoja, sewing a cap as tears ran down her lined face.
He took the needle from his mother's hands and began to sew.
"I knew how much she missed my sister -- her daughter. So I told her, I can continue this tradition. The first skull cap I made might not have been all that pretty, but my mom seemed happy. From then on, needle in hand, I've carried on my sister's legacy," Kader said, noticeably distressed by recalling this sad period of time.
His skills continued to improve, and his prestige caught the attention of his women peers, many of whom began to approach him to use his patterns.
In 2016, a Hami-style embroidery workshop was set up by Artron, a Chinese art company, and Tsinghua University's Academy of Arts and Design. Subsequent government aid, in the form of interest-free loans and other supportive measures, has led to establishment of 230 more companies and cooperatives. There are now more than 5,000 processional embroiderers in Hami.
As for Kader, he has become secretary-general of Hami's embroidery association and traveled extensively across the country to learn about different styles of embroidery. The wealth of knowledge and experience that he returned with have helped him design many of the association's embroidery workshops.
Moreover, he has established a cooperative with over 100 village artisans who can make 300 varieties of embroidery, including cellphone cases, cushions, caps and cheongsams -- all featuring his own designs.
"By blending ancestral embroidery practices with modern trends, the younger generations are being exposed to authentic craftsmanship," says Cheng Xiuming, director of Artron's e-commerce product department.
"Many people love my designs. They like the flowers we stitch. This love for the craft of the Hami people gives me a feeling -- like a beautiful flower blooming in my heart," says Kader as he returns to his work.