Poppies in Kyrgyz Culture

by Rikki Quintana January 27, 2021

Poppies in Kyrgyz Culture

Did you know that poppies are a national symbol of Kyrgyzstan? With over 70 native varieties, Kyrgyzstan is as famous for its poppies as Holland is for its tulips. The red poppy is a national inspiration for all artists, writers, and filmmakers.

In the words of Zhanyl Sharshembieva of Seven Sisters, “In May, all the foothills and fields are strewn with blooming red poppies. . . . It is important to catch these fleeting days when poppies are blooming.”

It’s therefore ironic that one year in the recent past, the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market instructed that Seven Sisters could not sell their gorgeous felted silk poppy scarves (presumably because they were “too Western” and not “authentic folk art”).  Zhanyl told me then that the poppy scarves are also best sellers at home in Kyrgyzstan, not just here in the US.

The poppy scarves, in their many colors, also incorporate the deeper meanings from Kyrgyz traditional culture. As Zhanyl explained,

For the Kyrgyz, colors have semantic meanings, as do patterns and ornaments, and our ancestors strictly observed the semantic meanings and combinations of colors.  In the manufacture of carpets, clothing, household utensils, the color spectra of nature were used: spring meadows, mountain snowy peaks, lakes and rivers - all colors have a muted natural character.  

Our grandmothers dyed threads and wool, fabric with natural dyes. We often watched and helped to collect roots, berries and leaves when we were small. In large cauldrons on the fires of grandmothers something was always boiling and dyed. Everything was used: onion husks, peel of nuts,  etc.  

The main colors are:

White is the personification of the pure, light, innocent, kind, also means west. The prefix Ak (white) is often found as the first part of the name.  

Black means north (night, winter).

Red means south (day, summer).

Blue/green means east (morning, spring, sky). Also blue means union, peace.  

Yellow – [means] the center of the earth, the sun, wisdom, morality, sadness.  

Purple refers to blue, but can also mean the color of a spring flower.”

Handmade felted silk scarf from Kyrgyzstan, large red felted poppies on black silk, on young Latinx female model


Thus, the red poppy scarf on black reflects the traditional incorporation of nature into all artistic expression. Flowers have always figured prominently in traditional Kyrgyz textile arts. The combination of red and black also reflects our world juxtaposed between the current night and winter of the current pandemic situation and the vision of the “day” and “summer” we are all praying for.


So, as we put together our Holiday Hope Valentine’s Day Collection, we thought it was entirely appropriate to include flowers. We wanted you to be able to choose the flowers that were “just right” for you. So you’ll have your choice of every single product in our inventory that features traditional floral patterns, including every poppy scarf we have in stock. We also added a couple of "hearts" products to complete the collection.                


Check out this little video preview of the Valentine's Day Collection, which contains over 30 products! Check out the details here and find out how to get your exclusive Holiday Hope Promo Code. 

Happy Valentine’s Day shopping! And remember, in 2021, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romance. You too deserve a touch of love and unique beauty in your life. 

Rikki Quintana
Rikki Quintana


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