Ornek, a Crimean Tatar ornament and knowledge about it


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Inscribed in 2021 (16.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Esma Adzhiieva, 2019

Örnek is a Ukrainian system of symbols and their meanings, currently used in embroidery, weaving, pottery, engraving, jewellery, wood carving, and glass and wall painting. The symbols are arranged to create a narrative composition. The Crimean Tatar communities understand the meaning of the symbols and often commission artisans to create certain compositions with specific meanings. Geometric ornaments are primarily used in weaving, whereas floral ornaments are used in all other folk crafts, including those not traditionally practised by Crimean Tatars, such as glass painting, wall painting or canvas wall art. Common symbols include plants and trees, symbolizing people of different genders and ages. There are around thirty-five symbols in total, each with its unique meaning and connotations. For instance, a rose symbolizes a married woman, a poplar or cypress symbolizes an adult man, a tulip symbolizes a young man, and an almond symbolizes an unmarried woman or girl. A carnation symbolizes an older person, wisdom and life experience. The symbolism of the floral ornaments is always emphasized by the unique colour palette and symbol combinations. For instance, a tulip within a rose symbolizes the love or union of a man and a woman. Many symbols are used as protective charms. The associated knowledge and skills are transmitted by skilled artisans within families and communities, in informal contexts such as embroidery classes, and in formal contexts such as universities.