Sacred Scraps

Across Central Asia, people tie fabric, scarves, strips, and patches onto bushes and trees that dot the expansive landscape. Each small scrap of fabric is believed to ward off destructive forces. In Turkmenistan, people tie fabrics to the chile agach, a structure that often takes the form of tree limbs leaning against one another. It is believed that by passing through, under, or around this colorfully decorated “tree,” danger will be averted and ailments will remain with the fabric strips.

Central Asian patchwork holds a power similar to those sacred scraps. Fabrics sewn together seam-to-seam do not simply form a physical object, but they also represent a sacred space, protecting all within its embrace or proximity.