Friday, October 03, 2008

The Mergen of Naadam

About a month ago, I was invited to participate in an exciting international challenge project with 29 other American fiber artists. 30 artists from the US, Japan, and France are to make small (50 cm by 50 cm, or about 20" square) pieces on various world festivals, with one artist from each country making pieces of the same festival.
Luckily for me, an American artist had to drop out because of other obligations, and a friend of mine called me to ask if I could jump in with weeks to go before the deadline. Hey, I work well under deadlines! So I said yes, and you see the result above.
I was given the Mongolian festival called "Naadam." It's sort of the Mongolian Olympics, really. Each July, people come from all over the country to compete in the "three manly games" of horse racing, wrestling, and archery. These three sports reflect the essential skills for survival in the nomadic life of long-ago Mongolia. Nowadays, small children ride in the horse races, on the theory that it is not the skill of the jockey but the speed of the horse that matters, and the lighter and smaller the rider, the better. Even if the rider falls off, the horse can win if it keeps going! Women participate in archery, using bows made from the traditional wood and bark. Unlike modern archery bows, the ones used in Naamad don't have sights for aiming, and are reputed to require great strength, clear eyesight, and a steady hand to shoot well.
I decided to depict the combination of ancient tradition and modern culture that is represented at Naadam today. I have pictured a female champion archer, or "Mergen" as she aims at a distant target. Her attire is the traditional Mongolian garb.
At some point in my research, I came upon a piece of Mongolian script which comes from the oldest monument found with Mongolian writing on it. It has been translated to tell that Ghengis Khan awarded a prize to an archer to had shot the longest distance. The lovely calligraphy seemed fitting here.
Here's a close-up of my Mergen.

I took this opportunity to try a fusing technique developed and used masterfully by my friend and fellow blogger Terry Grant. She posted the directions here some time ago, and I've had the print-out of her clear directions at the front of my "future projects" binder, just waiting for the right project. I enjoyed giving it a try and am very happy with the result. Thanks, Terry!!
My quilt now goes off to Oregon, and then to Japan where all 90 of the quilts will be on display at the Quilt Japan show in Tokyo! I'm told the group will travel around for 2 years, so I hope I'll get to see them at some point! (After all, one's quilts shouldn't be better travelled than oneself, don't you think?!)


  1. That' lovely, Diane. And especially so because I am, as I've said, unable to tackle the A-Word. This piece is crystalline in its simplicity...and really beautiful. Hope you get to see the whole traveling exhibit at some point.

  2. Wonderful piece! Glad you were happy with the results of the technique. Where will they be seen in Oregon?

  3. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Wow, what an honor. The quilt is beautiful!

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