We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu
Man's robe with large spots on a bright pink background, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Man's robe with large spots on a bright pink background, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, about 1900. Silk and cotton, lined with cotton. From the Rau collection

The vibrancy and inventiveness of ikat design, and the clues these textiles provide about everyday life, are central to the appeal of Central Asian ikats. These fabrics are at once full of urban energy, and steeped in the long history of textile making in this region.

Ikat is a style of weaving that uses a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft before the threads are woven to create a pattern or design.

In the 19th century Central Asia experienced a period of economic and cultural growth, and the golden age of ikat making was closely bound up with this new dynamism. Centres across Central Asia, such as Samarkand and Bukhara in modern-day Uzbekistan, and Kabul and Kunduz in Afghanistan, grew in size and prosperity. A new market for luxury ikat textiles emerged alongside this expansion. Eventually, whole neighbourhoods came to house the dyers, weavers, binders and designers whose collaborative activity went into the making of ikat fabrics. These fabrics had two roles in Central Asian urban society.  They were used in clothing as markers of status, or as hangings within the home.

The textiles shown here are mostly on loan from the Rau collection. Pip Rau is a leading collector of Central Asian and Afghan textiles and jewellery. Hers is the most important collection of this material in the UK and one of the best in the world. This collection gives us a view of the extraordinary range of Central Asian ikats made in the 19th century. Some pieces from the V&A’s collections are also on shown in the images below.


The V&A exhibition Central Asian Ikats from the Rau Collection ran from 5 November 2007-30 March 2008.

Central Asian Ikats, a fully illustrated introduction to the magnificent ikats of Central Asia by Ruby Clark is available from the V&A Museum Online Shop.

Interactive Map

Discover the many treasures in the beautiful V&A galleries, find out where events are happening in the Museum or just check the location of the café, shops, lifts or toilets. Simple to use, the V&A interactive map works on all screen sizes, from your tablet or smartphone to your desktop at home.

Launch the Interactive Map