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Hand-embroidery on canvas, series


The series of hand-embroidered canvases addresses the history of Russianisation in Soviet Kazakhstan as part of the politics of cultural assimilation.

Mәrjәm is the name of my grandmother. 

She was born in 1911 and as part of her basic education, she learned the Arabic script. However, when she turned eighteen, the script was replaced by the Latin-based "yanalif'. By the time Marjam had her first child, the alphabet was changed once more - to the Kazakh Cyrillic. She could not learn the new alphabet, and until the elderly age remained illiterate. Only in her sixties, she taught herself the Cyrillic letters. Although her eyes weakened because of years of needlework, she spent evenings reading, regretting the time lost. 

I hand-embroider her name, as well as various Kazakh words and letters in three alphabets - Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic. By using the thread of the same colour as the canvas, I seek to make visible the "invisibling" effects of the Soviet cultural policy.

The work was exhibited at Clouds, Power and Ornament at MillCHAT, Centre for Heritage, Art and Textile, Hong Kong


Read Asel Kadyrkhanova's essay Stitch, Unstitch which was written for the collective volume Suture: Reimagining Ornament, CHAT, 2023: Hong Kong republished at RUYO Journal

Read poet Tim Tim Cheng's poetic response to Asel Kadyrkhanova

Gradient Background
Lusher Photography _ Mill6CHAT _ Spring

Mәrjәm and Speechless. Installation view. Image courtesy @MillCHAT Centre for Heritage, Art and Textile, Hong Kong

KADYRKHANOV_Marijam - n01 detail.jpg



Hand embroidery on canvas

40x50 cm


marijam - n05_edited.jpg

Qyz (Kazakh) - Girl


Ümit (Kazakh) - Hope

marijam - n02_edited.jpg

The sound "Gh".

A word that is left unsaid,

stuck at the back of the throat.

A cry



and fear

that feel the same

in all languages.

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