YURTA focused on the nomadic folk traditions of the Kyrgyz, one of the world’s most ancient peoples. A centerpiece of the exhibition was an extraordinarily beautiful Kyrgyz yurta — a round, domed, tent-like dwelling. First-prize winner in a 1995 Kyrgyz national competition, this yurta was five years in design and construction. Patterned screens made of thin reed stems wrapped in colored wool were used for covering the lacquered-latticed walls of the structure and as room dividers. Colorful, felted wool rugs and braided tassels contributed to the visual impact of the structure. Mekenbek Osmonaliyev and his family, designers and makers of the yurta, journeyed to San Diego to erect the 22-foot diameter dwelling. Mekenbek and a translator returned at the close of the exhibition to strike the yurta.
The exhibition also included the Sommer/Krieger collection of rare Kyrgyz reed screens; Mongolian Paper Cuts by Norovsambuugin Baatartsog illustrating folk tales of Central Asia, from the collections of Hilary Roe Metternich and Asian Art and Archeology; and objects of Mongolian silver from the collection of Hilary Roe Metternich.
The exhibition was sponsored in part by community leaders John and Christy Walton. The exhibition was funded in part by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program and a contribution from the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians. The Gwendolyn Peacher Lecture Series was inaugurated during this exhibition, with illustrated lectures by Phila McDaniel, Dr. John Sommer and Hilary Roe Metternich. Accompanying the exhibition as well was the book Mongolian Folk Tales,collected by Hilary Roe Metternich and illustrated by Norovsambuugin Baatartsog.
The Mingei International exhibition documentary videotape, YURTA was made possible by an anonymous foundation.