I have been passionately involved in collecting Silk Suzanis, and spreading Suzani appreciation since May 2012 in Cape Town. To work with heavenly silk textiles has been my dream ever since I studied Textile Design and History at the University of Stellenbosch during the 70’s. The Ancient Silk Road history has captivated me eversince.
Silk has also held a special magic for me since childhood. Watching silk worms eating mulberry leaves and then spinning their golden silky threads,
the wonder of colour and pattern observed in nature played a major role in my life. Studying Suzanis combine these loves in a unique way.
Suzani is a perfect platform to study the story of motifs, patterns and symbols over the centuries and to trace their ever-changing messages. It fascinates me why some of these attract and speak to one and others can even make you feel uncomfortable.
In 2012 I was captivated by a photograph of a Suzani on a textile blog. I could not recognize its origin and asked online what textile it was and commented on its beauty. When I studied textile history Uzbekistan was still part of the Soviet Union and little was known about Suzanis in the West, I had not seen one before.
I soon found myself speaking online to a Suzani expert in Bukhara, the very heart of the Ancient Silk Road in Uzbekistan. He had placed the picture on the blog and saw my inquiry and answered. We soon became online friends because I became absolutely captivated by the story of Suzani and wanted to learn as much as possible about this "herstory" in art.
Thus began my direct connection with their fascinating and unique world.
My friend in Bukhara has been passionately involved in the drive to revive Suzani embroidery since Independence. He grew up during Soviet times when traditional Suzani embroidery was discouraged. Families treasured their inherited Suzanis and women kept embroidering armlets to wear to remember and practice the age old traditional embroidery skills they had learned from their mothers. In his childhood home embroidery was cherished, and this memory enchanted and inspired him.
Since the Independence of Uzbekistan from Russia in the early 90's it has been a profound joy in Central Asian that women are free to embroider their traditional Suzanis again and celebrate the magic of Central Asian Suzani creation.
Whilst studying in Germany he thoroughly researched antique Suzani history and design from museums and private collections and specialists worldwide. He returned to Bukhara and set out on his dream and passion to help in the new drive to create traditional Suzanis in Noble Bukhara. With a graphic designer to draw the designs on adras cotton and atlas silks and carefully selected embroideresses from the villages to do the hand embroidery, they set out to create authentic interpretations of antique Suzani designs. They have since been producing and ever building up a series of the most beautiful contemporary silk Suzanis of incredibly high quality.
In 2013 I visited Uzbekistan, and the more I learned and saw of this ancient world of the Silk Road, the more it enchanted me. I need a few more lifetimes to explore and learn about only a fraction of it all.
"Suzani embroidery has withstood the passage of time. Every phase has contributed to the spirit of this art. Each authentic Suzani tells a quiet story to those who understand. Her language is one of motifs and colour that speak magical messages. These have been transformed over generations, but continue to express the same feeling."
The creator of each Suzani remains present inside her handicraft.
Having grown up in a time of machine woven and printed textiles, I am overwhelmed and inspired by these hand embroidered Suzanis with their exuberance, beauty, craft and elegance. Each one is an artwork, alive with unique history and energy. It is incredible that in this high speed technological time of distractions and lack of practicing "slow- time", there are women who are still patiently creating this pure traditional art and craft. I love the fact that women could and still do gain great respect and personal pride in their community through the excellence of their embroidered art work. This art form has always been held in very high esteem in Central Asia.
I am passionate to help in keeping this art form flourishing. I am slowly building up my own wonderful private collection of Suzanis from Bukhara to exhibit and share and I also sell Suzanis from the New Suzani Gallery at my home.
I have given a series of talks on that which I have discovered on the subject of "Suzanikari" to date.
My Collection has taken part in many exhibitions in Cape Town and in Johannesburg and now also in Hermanus.
Pictures follow below.
My Collection was exhibited for the month of July 2016 at the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town.
The Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town Exhibition 2016
“A celebration of the contribution women make to the world through their creative talents. The show will feature Manina Baumann's magnificent collection of hand-embroidered Uzbek suzanis as well as artworks of 20 artists that have been created in response to these Central Asian textiles. Curated by Michael Chandler, the all-female exhibition aims to explore the notion of the inner-garden; a timeless metaphor for a state of ideal beauty and harmony. Just like the walled gardens of Persia, the essence of a Suzani is one of flourishing beauty, harmony and protection. Philosophically, they are an attempt to create a perfect state and space, a return to Eden. The exhibition aimed to share the embroidered versions of Paradise with the onlooker, and to explore the way contemporary female artists respond to these textiles."
Exhibiting local and international artists, the show also featured lesser-known works by Irma Stern, who herself was an ardent textile enthusiast and collector."
"Sewing Paradise" was very well received and enjoyed by very many Irma Stern museum members and visitors.
Information about the exhibition can be found on the Museum's website :
http://www.irmastern.co.za/ Past Exhibitions
Below is the link to the interview with Tasleema Allie of 91.3 FM Voice of the Cape during the July 2016 Suzani exhibition
and also an interview from SAfm radio compiled from interviews and speeches on the opening night.
Suzaniroom has exhibited at two Cape Town Antique Fairs and three "Kamers Vol Geskenke" Markets. One in Stellenbosch, then the Caste, De Goede Hoop, and at the City Hall
.“Sewing Spring” 2017
In August 2017 I exhibited Suzanis in Johannesburg at the CO2 Gallery in Craighall Park in a beautiful exhibition called "Sewing Spring". A collaboration between myself and two young artists, my daughter Maria Baumann and Sarah Hooper. The topic was the Persian Garden of Eden as seen in Suzanis. This in turn was the inspiration for their painted artworks. The exhibition lasted for 10 days and was very well attended and enjoyed by many new Suzani lovers.
“The All Silk Suzani Exhibition” 2018
I was very privileged to exhibit All Silk Suzanis at The Great Celler of the Alphen Estate. It was a magical and wonderful experience to be able to have at least 26 beautiful Suzanis hanging on these wonderful historic old walls to be enjoyed by so many appreciative visitors.