Reviewer: Michael Keith
Title: Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour
Author: Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Babour Ismailov, Binafsha Nodir, Davron Toshev
Total Number of Pages: 143
Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7
According to its cover notes, the volume is intended to be ‘…A celebration of the arts and pictorial traditions of Uzbekistan’ doing-so with ‘Photographs of architectural works, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles’, and as part of this, ‘…The reader is given the opportunity to colour in their own drawings based on the beautiful photographs provided’. The result is simultaneously both a ‘Colouring book’ (albeit a very nice and well-presented one), yet equally a volume showcasing Uzbeki culture. It is an unusual treatment of an unusual subject.
Surprisingly, the volume contains no Contents page; the first page encountered being an untitled one which serves as an Introduction to its subject. This provides a broad historical background to the architecture and designs which are to follow. The first of five Sections which form the main part of the volume now appear. Although not defined as such (and un-numbered), these sections are analogous to Chapters. They cover the previously-mentioned subjects of architectural woks, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles with the unifying factor common to all, being patterns unique to Uzbekistan. These patterns mostly appear as full-page coloured photographs of unknown origin within each section, and in most instances are reproduced as line drawings on an adjacent page. It should be noted however, that, for unknown reasons, pages 54-65 do not contain reference images. Although some images contain a more detailed explanation about their subject (that of Mosaic Décor of Sherdor Madrasah, being one such example), the majority contain only a brief caption, this being placed alongside the appropriate photograph. Surprisingly (and although the intention is that the reader use coloured media such as crayons, pencils or paint to replicate the colours the coloured image contains), no guidance is given as to the colours that should be used, the volume’s complier’s evidently believing that the viewer can make this decision for themselves and ignoring the fact that there are numerous shades of a specific colour (‘Brown’ being but one example). Although a variety of Uzbecki words appear throughout the volume, it contains no interpretative Glossary. What (for example) is Ganch? (Section 2) The section itself offers no explanation and as the word does not appear in the previously-referenced Introduction, a reader can have no idea. Despite being located in a little-known part of the world, no maps are provided to assist the geographically-challenged reader.
The previously-noted ‘limitations’ notwithstanding, it is very evident that this book is a labour of love, yet its exact purpose is uncertain. The problem is that the volume is neither Fish nor Fowl. On one hand it is a celebration of Uzbeki culture and as such is beautifully presented, yet equally it is a Colouring Book, a genre that is at the lower end of the publishing market and more-frequently (and traditionally) associated with children rather than adults. What has resulted in this instance (at least for this reviewer) is a ‘compromise’ that is unable to decide its exact purpose, and is cheapened by this indecision. Were that that was not the case.
Aside from Uzbeki nationals who will purchase it for nostalgic reasons, it is possible that this volume will appeal to several different readerships. These could include ‘Orientalists’ who are interested in Middle Eastern cultures and their attributes, ‘Colourists’ who are seeking different subjects for their talents, and those who simply like beautiful images with a Middle Eastern theme. Artists with an interest in ‘Eastern’ themes and artworks may also find the images contained within this volume worthy of their attention.
On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.