The importance of the International Festival of Handicrafters was highlighted by prominent statesman, foreign craftsmen and participants attending the festival


  Carol Anne Gwizdak 


  Wales, Great Britain


     As a jeweller being selected for this festival to represent Wales, Great Britain is an experience I will always treasure and never forget.

     Having little awareness of Uzbekistan, its heritage and creative culture before I arrived, I was impressed by the level of ambition and political vision for the proposed event. In particular the number of handicrafters, both local and international that were to take part.

     In recent years there are few craft event of this size in Britain and it was refreshing to see this level of respect shown by a nation to its creative heritage.

     On arrival, I was not disappointed. The welcome was extraordinary, with dancers, musicians and the Kokand people greeting us at the station, like celebrities, which made a lasting impression on all the international makers who were there. It was refreshing to feel this level of admiration associated to the arts as opposed to sport or fame.Throughout our stay the level of hospitality and kindness showed to us was amazing.

     The level of organisation and the speed in which the festival had been developed and realised was impressive, especially since this was the first craft event of this scale in Uzbeckistan and the first in Kokand.

     On a personal level, having individual translators allocated to us was inspired. They were a wonderful support, nothing was too much effort for them. They were young, vibrant, intelligent and a real credit to their nation. Once we arrived at the festival and displayed our work, they were an invaluable communication conduit and my translator, Ziroatxonenabled me to explain my work to anyone that asked. There were so many excited people of all ages who were truly interested about where I came from, and how I made my jewellery. They often seemed surprised that I, as a woman, had made all of the pieces.

     The festival also gave us the opportunity to see thebeautiful products and craft skills of Uzbekistan. The variety and distinctions between the different regions was impressive, evident in both the products and the beautiful traditional costumes. I did manage to meet one master jeweller and had the opportunity to discuss techniques and design with him. His ability to create traditional pieces, largely with hand tools that have changed little in centuries, demonstrated a high level of skill, pride and cultural heritage.  In particular though, it was the textiles that made the biggest impression on me. We had the opportunity to visit a Ikatworkshop to see how the fabric was made, so I could appreciate the complexities of the process and clearly, I couldn’t leave without buying some pieces.

     The spectacle of the programmed Opening and Awarding ceremonies was so well done and truly spectacular having the flavour of Olympic events. The importance of the festival was marked by the president’s visit, again emphasising the value placed on the event. Each of these ceremonies was an extravaganza of music, dance and song truly showcased the pride and delight of Uzbekistanies in their heritage and culture. Everybody was joyous which was totally infectious and allseemed to dance spontaneously at any opportunity. One of the intensions for the festival which was voiced by the president Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was to create ties between nations.The involvement of the World’s Crafts Council consolidated this and I truly feel on a personal level, these ties were achieved between the international makers and the populous. All of us said we would actively promote Kokand and Uzbekistan as a destination to visit to all who would listen.

     I will cherish the memory and hope to return to the festival in 2 years’ time with a new body of work inspired by my visit. This will visualise the personal, cultural and creative exchanges that I experienced. 

     I believe the festival was a resounding success on all levels.  However as with all events of this scale, especially in their seminal year there were things that could have been introduced and I would like to make some possible suggestions for the next festival.

  •      Additional signage boardsin the festival grounds.  To include clear maps of the site and a daily events board so people could choose what they wanted to attend and where they wanted to go.
  •      There would be a list available of all the makers with contact details.
  •      A designated private view slot where all the makers and known collectors could meet each other to exchange ideas and skills. The general public would be excluded from this event. In Great Britain for example most exhibitions have a private view that usually lasts about 3 hours.
  •      Designated times for the international stands to be open and shut. Many of us wanted to see each other’s stands but didn’t get the opportunity due to tents being shut.
  •      As part of the invitation many of us were asked to demonstrate our craft. I did bring the relevant equipment but the opportunity didn’t arise.  As an alternative, I think it would be better to set up small studio tents e.g pottery or jewelleryetc where anyone involved in that craft could be allocated a timed slot to demonstrate. These timed demonstrations would be advertised on the events boards.
  •      All of the international tents were closed during lunch as we were taken back to the hotel. It may be better to eat in the festival to save time.
  •      Finally, in the initial invitation it was suggested that the crafts would be together in specific discipline zones. I believe this could create a real opportunity to exchange ideas rather than zoning as geographic districts.

     Once again, many thanks for the opportunity to participate in the festival. It is an experience I will never forget and hope to return again.