In a workshop in the heart of Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley, Nigora Akhonova is seated over a steaming vat of silk cocoons. With measured movements she stirs the pot and pulls out some of the off-white, almond-sized cocoons using a stick to hook the gossamer threads spilling out of them. Slowly unraveling the strands, she feeds them across to Maryam Madaminova, who winds them onto a spindle.
Akhonova has been doing this for three decades, but sericulture – the rearing of silkworms and production of silk – has been practiced in the Ferghana Valley for well over a millennium. Here at the Yodgorlik silk factory in the town of Margilan, the ancient art is thriving. The silk is painstakingly produced by women like these, before being dyed and woven into bright textiles or luxurious carpets. The whole process is done by hand.
This is a labor of love, from the top down. Yodgorlik is owned by Azamhon Abdullayev, who joined the factory 31 years ago as an economist, but fell in love with the silk business and moved into production.
“I was drawn to it,” he told EurasiaNet.org in an interview inside the factory. “I love design, dyeing.”
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.