Kurak and kurama are the Turkic words most Central Asians use for “patchwork.” Some scholars believe people have made kurak for over a millennium. Others tie its history to the 19th-century expansion of trade with Russia, which brought new materials to the region.
Regardless of its beginnings, patchwork’s primary role has long been as a protective charm used by brides, new mothers and children to guard against sorcery, sickness and evil spirits. Triangular fabric amulets (tumar) attached to clothing and animal trappings were believed to appease supernatural elements, protect against harm and keep the mystical forces of nature in harmony. The repeating triangles commonly featured in Central Asian patchwork—such as the ones found on the mirror holders below—served a similar purpose, scaring off the “evil eye” and other bad thoughts and intentions.