Lakai Needlepoint Series

Source: Lakai Silk Needlepoint Ilgutch, Central Asia, 19th century, Skinner Auction Preview, April 2019.

The Lakai are a tribe of ethnic Uzbeks historically known for their horsemanship and fighting skills. Orignally from the region around Bukhara, in Eastern Uzbekistan, they remained politically, economically and culturally distinct in comparison with other, more fluid Uzbek groups. They presently live in a few small villages around Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. They came into prominence again during the mid 1970s, when their bag-faces, patchworks, pouches, hats, and embroideries—materials appropriate to the nomadic culture of the Uzbeks—appeared on the Afghan market. The designs of the small square and shield-shaped wall hangings embroidered in silk know as  the work of the Lakai are quite unlike the familiar floral works of the town and village dwellers of northern Afghanistan. These designs are highly abstracted, often asymmetric in composition, and never sentimental. The word Ilgutch (or Ilgitsh) means pouch or container, but among the Lakai it refers specifically to decorative embroidered pouches in pentagonal or rectangular shape.