Mimi Robinson, Yurt camp at Lake Issey-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Yurts

Mimi Robinson

Indigenous Artisan Communities

Located in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has been well known since the times of the legendary Silk Road for the temporary yurt camps that nomads set up during summer months at the base of the Tien Shan mountains. The landscape there is of monumental scale, characterized by the deep blues and purples of distant mountains, snow-capped peaks, and the vast sand-colored horizon. Nomadic cultures have been shaped by this land and live in balance with the seasons, connected to place and traditions.

A typical yurt in Bokonbaeva, Kyrgyzstan can be moved in a day. It is the model of living simply, with a small footprint.

Known for their longstanding felt-making artistry, yurt makers from the large Kyrgyz village of Bokonbaeva, on the edge of Lake Issey-Kul, work with local resources, creativity, and ingenuity to create yurts that reflect the nomadic culture and environment of Kyrgyzstan. The structures are light enough for nomads to carry, flexible enough to fold and pack, and sturdy enough to be dismantled and reassembled. Handmade from local sheep’s wool fashioned into felt, the dwellings are constructed with a bent willow and birch framework. Yurts provide a cool home in the hot summers and warmth during winter months.

The round frame at the top of the yurt, called the tunduk, creates four points, each directed to a corner of the world.

More than just a dwelling, the yurt symbolizes the world in which nomads live, and is a sacred portrayal of life under heaven. The round shape of a yurt evokes the sky, and its central pillars are particularly meaningful, symbolizing the cosmic axis between earth and heaven—the root of the community’s spiritual practice. The hearth (fire) is placed in the center of this representation of the universe within the yurt.

Women laugh and sing together as they work on the traditional felt rugs.

Women of the community come together to make the felt shyrdak (patchwork) rugs that are used as traditional household coverings in the yurt. One afternoon I had a chance to sit with them as they sang, laughed, and sewed together. I learned that their craft is inspired by the plant and animal world, with popular spiral and curl elements symbolizing the horns of animals such as sheep.

The ornamental patterns have deep meaning for the Kyrgyz culture and reflect their understanding of the earth, mountain, waters, stars. Good wishes for prosperity, strength, and courage are woven into the textiles. The felt creations are a harmonious blend of rich warm reds, warm orange, and purples with accents of magenta, colors that reflect the Kyrgyz culture and their everyday world.

Lia Cook, Binary Traces Young Girl


Many talented individuals are featured in the West Marin Review. Please click below for this volume’s contributors.

    • Lia Cook   Binary Traces Young Girl
    • Carol Whitman   High Tide at White House Pool
    • Muriel Murch   Farming the Flats
    • James Misner   Three Short Stories
    • Rick Lyttle   Harry Truman and Me
    • L. L. Babb   Chuck Lange Kicks Ass
    • Linda Gebroe   A Play in Four Pitches
    • Barbara Heenan   Grabbed by the Pussy
    • Lina Jane Prairie   Kelp Work
    • Morgan McDonald   Mobile
    • Elizabeth Wing   The Plankton Expedition
    • G. David Miller   Mad Dogs and Americans
    • Reeva Harrison   In Pursuit of Thingness
    • J. C. Stock   Mountain Bliss
    • Nancy Cavers Dougherty   Inversion
    • Amy Elizabeth Robinson   Reading Michael Meade’s Why the World Doesn’t End…
    • Jorge Bravo   The Universe
    • María Baranda   From Dylan and the Whales Translated by Forrest Gander
    • Mary Winegarden   Long Marriage
    • Derveaux Baker   Second Chances
    • Jon Langdon   When It Counts
    • Regina O’Melveny   The Bird
    • Claire Millikin   Christian Girl
    • Rebecca Foust   all this beauty
    • Jim Nawrocki   On Reading The Encyclopedia of Creation Myths
    • Wayne Hill   The book about walking
    • Luis Lenz-Fontan   Life
    • Barbara Swift Brauer   Fog / Trees Returning
    • Sarah Anna Paden   Hoshigaki
    • Stephen Ajay   Windless and By Our Own Hands
    • Kathleen Evans   Crossing the Line
    • Brian C. Felder   Cold Calculus
    • David Swain   Border Crossing
    • Elizabeth Wing   Pierce Point
    • Lia Cook   Binary Traces Young Girl
    • Emely Garcia-DeLeon   Point Reyes Seashore
    • Wendy Goldberg   Inside Out and Early Spring Clearing
    • Charles Robinson   Granddaughter Isabel Robinson
    • Thomas Wood   Tomales Bay at Chicken Ranch Beach
    • Torrey Baron   Shadows
    • Julia Lucey   The Bear and the Bees
    • Jennifer Thompson   Can’t Face It
    • Abbey Wenk   My Happy Place
    • Pam Fabry   Blue
    • Patricia Thomas   Negative Dark Matter
    • Bear Lombard   Our School Fox
    • Stella Bailey   White Horse
    • Dana Hooper   Jigsaw
    • Anne Hudes   Dolphin Light
    • Mimi Robinson   Kyrgyzstan Yurts
    • Barbara Lawrence   Point Reyes Lunch
    • Danae Mattes   Horizon and Harbor
    • Betsy Kellas   Invocation and Barriers and Boundaries 3
    • Vi Strain   Moments of Natural Beauty
    • Amanda J. Sanow   Red Hill
    • Jo Margolis   Grid with Calligraphic Frame
    • Kate Kozubik   Red Tree with Bird
    • Glenn Carter   Knot
    • Marianne Reger   Bouquet
    • Marsha Balian   A Day at the Races
    • Gene Crowe   Purse, SF MOMA
    • Jane Zich   Running Deer
    • Alex Farnum   Kelp Work
    • Anne Faught   Pages from a Life
    • Jon Ching   Indestructible
    • Eleykaa Tully   Hope
    • Laurence Brauer   Fog, Trees, Mt. Wittenberg Trail
    • Jean Warren   Coming Together
    • Caitlin McCaffrey   The Claw Family
    • Amanda Tomlin   Bees
    • Harriet Kossman   Mabel, Cleo, and Peter: Morning Meeting on Pamela’s Deck
    • Sherrie Lovler   Inspiration
    • Barbara Treichler Gregor   California Pipevine Swallowtail
    • Mark Ropers   A New Day
    • Carol Whitman   High Tide at White House Pool