As it turns out snow is the best canvas to display the splendour of Tatar boots (shchiteqler)! But to embrace the beauty and comfortability of shchiteqler during wet or snowy weather, one would need another piece of footwear – qalushlar. Those are the rubber low overshoes that would protect gentle leather and intricate ornaments from dirt and water.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Crocs are contemporary alternative to qalushlar that care for my beautiful schiteqler!
The hope is that sooner then the beginning of 22d century the overshoes become made of ecologically-friendly materials: not from synthetic rubber of traditional qalushlar and plastic of Crocs (both are derivatives of crude oil), but of natural and renewable materials like dandelion: the special one that is abundant in Eurasian steppes where decorated boots began their charm. Kudos to Continental for engineering the innovative tires from plant kok-saghyz – a modest and powerful dandelion that is native to Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan). It is translated from Kazakh language (and also Tatar) as “root gum” and it’s impressive qualities were discovered by USSR/Soviet scientists in 1932.
Another footwear that Tatar people would put on to protect soft Tatar boots are either bashmaqlar or shchuweqler like the ones pictured below (middle) in the sketches by Tatar prominent sculptor and painter Baqi Urmance. Those sketches (started in 1970) were meant to serve as a decorative background for the Soviet-ideolozied museum of Tatar prominent poet Gabdulla Tukay in Kazan. They ended up not being displayed in the museum but they made it on this website! Urmance’s work masterfully depicts the dynamics of Tukay’s Kiseqbash poem (written in 1908) as well as skilfully showcases the busy life and Islam-dictated fashion of Tatars of early 20th century in the Tatar biste (neighbourhoods) of Kazan.
If Baqi Urmace is the staple of Tatar visual arts, Gabdulla Tukay is the staple of Tatar literary arts, then not mentioning one more Tatar staple of musical art Salikh Saidashev would not be fair. Salikh Saidashev is one of the creators of Tatar music that was aligned with Soviet Union’s atheistic (absence of religion) ideology and aesthetics. Here is the glimpse of Saidashev’ & T.Gizzat’s musical “Merchant” (created in 1930ies) that vividly displays the new interpretation and stylezed reality of Tatar life – where religious Islamic practices were forced to be removed but the spirit of cheer and resilient community persist.
Like everybody else, I have many wishes to come true in the new year! But, first, I want to recognize and thank the last year for things that came my way, particularly, this mind-blowing encounter on the internet. A hand-painted cold-cast porcelain miniature of a Tatar boot (shchiteck) designed by Raine Willlitts back in 2002 that had been patiently waiting to be found by me! What a discovery! This is a miniature replica of right boot that was worn by Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter. Caroline and her husband Armistead Peter traveled the world and claimed New York, Paris, Washington DC (Tudor place) as their homes.
Just by looking at the Caroline’s portrait that hangs in the Tudor place (painted by her husband in 1925), one can say that she was a fashionista. She, most likely, had been visiting fashionable salons and fairs around the world to keep up with the trends. Paris World Fair in 1925 (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts and Industrial Arts) was, probably, the place where she spotted unique Tatar boots that were featured in the USSR’s pavilion that impressed visitors with it’s futuristic designs and elaborate presentation of folk art of many diverse ethnicities of young Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics.
This exhibition in Paris of 1925 (world fairs once used to be grandiose events to showcase the country’s capabilities and potential) was the great opportunity for the newly established USSR (1922-1991) to display its uniqueness not only from the political stand (as socialistic endeavour with equality as the highest value). It vowed the visitors with exceptional, not-seen-before-by-Westerners plentitude of versatile decorative folk arts of multitude indigenous people. It signalled that the strengths of USSR is in it’s diverse ethnic backgrounds and skilled hands that were inherited from myriads of past ruling empires including Ottoman and Russian.
“Les Bottes brodées-“itchegui” des Tartares de Kazan” (embroidered boots “ichigi’/”schiteck” made by Kazan (Volga) Tatars) were among the ones mentioned and boasted about in the official brochure. Tatar leather mosaic – the technique the “Tartares” boots were decorated in – is truly exceptional utilitarian art that captured the eyes of not only Caroline Peter but many others. Tatar boots were sought-after items and accessorised the looks of fashionistas of early 20th century.
Unfortunately, unfavourable progression in the USSR’s leadership attitudes towards ethnic minorities led to stagnation of indigenous people’s cultures, languages and folk arts including Tatar Leather Mosaic. My wish for the new year and years to come is that Tatar boots are back to production heights of the early 20th century (millions per year) and are desired by many.
The exceptional discovery was made by Soviet archeologists in 1947 in Pazyryk kurgans of Altai Mountains (south of modern city of Novosibirsk in Russian Federation), when the oldest ornamented leather boots were excavated from the burrows of Scythian nomadic tribes that had been waiting to be found for over 2300 years. All three recovered boots are decorated with intricate patterns and ornaments that bore sacred meaning for the owner.
Life, in many ways, resembles the process of patching: Present and past are pieced together, swiftly or diligently, and are generously inducted into memory via patched and patterned designs. One of the most expressive way to display memories is the folk art, especially, the most eloquent and patiently-crafted ones, like American Southquilting and Volga Tatarsleather mosaic.
The dearest friend of mine, Lizzie, told me once, patiently and joyfully, about the power and beauty of the quilts created by Sarah Mary Taylor that involved symbolic connotations rooted deeply in traditions and beliefs of African-American culture. The Tatar leatherwork, similarly, source its inspirations from the symbolic ornaments of Turkic nomads that tell the story of what matters.
Both folk art forms, leather mosaic and patchworked quilting, display, in their unique ways, the universal wisdom that aggregates nuances of individual lives: beautiful, meaningful and precious lives…
Precious Lizzie’s life is lost: Life that was filled with good deeds for humanity and nature. Life that gave so much power, care and warmth to those around and in need. Imprints of Lizzie’s tender soul is gently embedded now in the colorful mosaic and patchwork of so many people’s memories whose lives were touched by Liz, including mine!
February 21 is International Mother Language Day. Supporting and celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity are of the highest importance to maintain and sustain world peace and social justice. It is crucial to preserve the linguistic and cultural differences in order to make the world versatile and interesting place to live in, to help foster tolerance and respect for others – such needed qualities to have for each of us these days.
How can minor languages be preserved? On individual level, we can start by recognizing the need to secure the future of a language and be intrinsically motivated to keep it alive, either by utilizing one’s own mother tongue or by learning a new language. Want to start with Tatar?
Let’s be pro-active in securing the future of languages! We need a world with many languages that are building blocks for cultures that enrich our societies and live to be vibrant, meaningful and understanding of inherent differences.
Need an inspiration or something to brighten up your day? All you need is to find couple pairs of beautiful boots and multiply them by three…and boost of energy is guaranteed.
The chiteks (tatar boots) that made my day are recent discovery from Kazan flee market. They belonged to Tatar folk dance group that performed in 1980ies in Tatarstan, USSR. The boots have holes in the thick soles telling the story that they were worn till the “last breath” and served well to their owners. It is estimated that the dancers performed at least 15 dances per show, 3 shows per day almost every weekends and holidays within two to three years. The boots were made by hands of footwear masters in Tatar Opera & Ballet Theater’s workshop in 1970ies.
Center design created by “Sahtian” and surrounded by Tatar boots created by Tatar Opera & Ballet workshop
What an amazing idea was to create a movement that showcases and celebrates skills, vocation and trade! WorldSkills movement (that was born 70 years ago) has been inspiring young people to develop passion through learning skills that unite, help solve problems, empower and give purpose. WorldSkills 2019 competition was held Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia this summer (August 22-27, 2019)! It is very exciting and promising to see that youth is inspired and dedicated to learn and practice skills. Desire to perform and master a skill can make you powerful! Powerful to make a difference, to lead meaningful and purposeful life! Powerful to restore, re-ignite, recover ancient arts and trades that have been struggling to survive in modern times.
Look at these inspiring young ladies: They are keeping the ancient skill – art of Tatar leather mosaic – and turning it into a flourishing and popular brand!
A young company “Bulgari” makes leather goods incorporating traditional leather mosaic technique, modern designs and edgy looks. The company is run by young ladies, who believe that the power (and joy) is in finding the passion in one’s roots: Tatar Leather Mosaic made a perfect cut for them.
What an example to follow! Let’s look to our roots, heritage, backgrounds! Let’s search for some skills that are on the brink of disappearing! Let’s re-discover, re-learn, bring them back to life! It will make us better, kinder, more patient, more grateful!
With cold and grey winter weather in progress, the longing for sunshine and warmth is getting stronger. The constant search for ideas that can replicate the magic of the sunshine while it is not available allows amazing discoveries, like this one:
Who knew that setting up several cute shoes with Tatar leather mosaic designs in form of the sun may fill up the day with positivity and warmth!
It is pretty impressive how beautiful, colorful and esthetically pleasing items can re-charge and empower, comfort and energize. Let us know if you want to create comfortable experiences: Tatar leather mosaic footwear can do the magic!
Would you ever guess that the traditional Tatar outfit and the leather chiteks on this cute doll was designed and stitched by hands of 80 year-old Flyora apa – an extraordinary woman who was so passionate about her hobby that she made everyone around her inspired and energized.
She would salvage unwanted old dolls and would make them irresistible and ethnic by dressing them up in hand-made Tatar costumes and hand-stitched Tatar ornamental footwear.
Hard to accept that this wonderful lady is gone. Her kind and powerful spirit will be remembered for long: she inspired people to be young-at-heart, to be excited about ethnic heritage, to love what you do. She served as an impressive role model to follow. You will be deeply missed, Flyora apa! Thank you for keeping Tatar tradition alive! Thank you for your passionate and powerful spirit, for masterful hands!
When it comes to milestones, there is an interesting tendency of me resorting back to my roots to celebrate them.
When I wear my Tatar boots made using leather mosaic technique, I feel like home, not just because they are cosy and beautiful, but also because they carry wisdom of my culture and hold the warmth, passion and hard work of at least three artisans who designed, hand-cut, hand-stitched, assembled those works of art for me to enjoy.
Every time I wear them I feel joyous, satisfied, and needed like I feel when I accomplish something meaningful for myself and for others.
I will be happy to find you exceptional piece of Tatar Leather Mosaic, so you understand how I feel when I wear them. Just let me know .