What clothes do tundra aristocrats wear?
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What clothes do tundra aristocrats wear?

February 15, 2021

The Evenks are one of the most numerous peoples living not only in Taimyr, but also in the North, Siberia, the Far East and Asia.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The Evenks were called the aristocrats of Siberia, the French of the tundra and taiga. They also wore tailcoats, gave life to the word ‘shaman’ and considered ravens to be enchanted people. The uniqueness of their culture inspired Ksenia Kaushnyan, a graduate of the Norilsk College of Arts, to create an amazing outfit called Fulaki, which means ‘fox’ in Evenk.

The set of women’s clothing is quite complex – it includes a parka, a headdress, neck, chest and back jewelry, a belt, bracers and shoes. It is made of several types of natural leather and fox fur in combination with carved plates from mammoth tusk.

“Thinking over the parka’s shape, I took as a basis the historically formed Evenk folk costume, which due to its unusual silhouette and rich decoration is named a Tungus tailcoat”, explains the former student of the Decorative and applied arts and folk crafts department. “It was more difficult to find a solution for the artistic image of the costume. I made sketches, trying to think over lines, colors and combinations with different textures of natural materials… As a result, the Evenk legend about the Fox helped me to decide on the idea”.

This happened a long time ago, the girl tells the fairy tale story, when the animals did not have bright outfits yet, and the fox’s skin was gray. The evil spirit Hargi stole the Sun and locked it in his chum. It became dark, cold on the ground. Then the animals decided to send the most cunning one to search for the luminary in order to deceive Hargi. Fulaki was chosen from the fox family, and she hit the road. She found the chum Hargi, who was completely blind from the bright sunlight. Pretending to be the creator of all life on the earth, the fox made the evil spirit release the Sun back to heaven. And for its salvation, the Sun rewarded Fulaki with a bright outfit – painted her skin sunny ocher-red colors.

“The plot of the legend, which became the basis for my project, helped me to decide on the coloristic decision”, explains Ksenia Kaushnyan.

The girl applied a traditional Evenk ornament using the technique of contour carving on decorative plates made of mammoth tusk, which decorate the headdress, shoulder decorative element, bracers, belt and shoes. And, it should be noted, this is not just a pattern.

Ornaments had a sacred meaning for the Evenks: it was forbidden to transfer the exact image of animals, birds, people to things – allegorical symbols were usually used. For example, triangles were associated with the cult of fertility, childbearing, and the strength of the tribal community. Solar signs or, for example, a schematic representation of spiders – symbols of well-being, home keepers, were of great importance.

Ksenia brought a different idea to life. She cut five plates from the mammoth ivory, placing them on the bib and the back of the suit’s shoulder piece. The result is a cross, which, according to Ksenia’s idea, symbolizes a loon.

“This bird is sacred – the presence of its symbolic image in the form of a cross on clothes is considered protective”, the craftswoman explains.

Weaving cords, sewing neck and shoulder jewelry, headwear, decorating costume elements with fur and beads – the work lasted for some months, but the result was worth it. The stunning Fulaki set, which the girl demonstrated to her teachers from the Norilsk College of Arts, could have adorned the collection of any fashion house.

“In this set, using the motifs of the Evenk costume, which is different from the clothing of other peoples of the Far North, I wanted to reflect the wonderful world of legends and the unique mentality of the Evenks, who were called aristocrats of Siberia because of the special dignity in behavior and sophistication of clothes”, Ksenia emphasizes.

Text: Elena Popova, Photo: Norilsk College of Arts

February 15, 2021

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