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Kelagayi as intangible heritage of Azerbaijan

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Kelagayi making is heritage craft with its own history

In November we celebrating the symbolism and the precious craft of kelagayi.

The work done for the inclusion of "the art and symbolism of Azerbaijani kelagayi" in the intangible cultural heritage list by UNESCO is a graphic example of the care of the Azerbaijani state for the ancient folk art and national heritage.

Along with the symbols of beauty, dignity, loyalty and reverence, the kelagayi making also reflects the ancient history, culture and traditions of the Land of Fire.
Each color and pattern reflected on kelagayi often have historical and cultural meanings.
  • All roads lead to Sheki
The art of kelagayi is concentrated in two locations in Azerbaijan: the city of Sheki and the Basgal settlement. Interesting fact: the largest silk factory in the world operated in the 19th century in Sheki.
  • The Art of Colors
This heritage craft consists of several stages: fabric weaving, dyeing, and woodblock (in Azerbaijani we call it galib-stamps) decoration. The colors of kelagayis have symbolic meanings and are often tied to specific social occasions, such as weddings, mourning ceremonies, daily activities and celebrations.
Getting the color right is a meticulous and labor-intensive process. For each additional color, scarves are immersed in new bath. To create a multi-colored kelagayi with intricate detailing requires skill and patience... and about 4 days.
  • From Ancient Times to Nowadays
Today kelagayi in Azerbaijan remains a common element of women's wardrobe. Women of different ages wear kelagayi of various colors and shapes. For example, older women wear it in the form of turban, while young women and girls tie kelagayi like a scarf or use small kelagayis as an additional accessory for their daily looks, tying them on the hair or around the handle of the bag. So, nowadays kelagayi is not just a head accessory but also can be worn, for example, as a shawl draped over shoulders, as a pareo, pancho, and etc.

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