Monday, December 20, 2010

Kurdish weaving tradition from Central Anatolia to Khorasan

Women weaving at the Kurdish Textile Museum. GLOBE PHOTO/Marie-Mediya Badini

The Kurdish Globe 
By Marie-Mediya Badini

The ancient art of rug weaving in the Kurdish heartland has passed from generation to generation.

The original Kurdish rugs, which were primarily made to preserve heat and decorate village houses, also served as wedding dowries and gifts to the mosque. There exists two main types of weaving style: rugs, which are thick, soft, and warm, and are woven using a carpet hook; and kilims, which are made by passing colored threads around vertical warps by hand. Interestingly enough, the Kurdish weaving tradition has long been misunderstood or ignored. This is partially linked to a historic-political context that has left Kurds without a country of their own, deprived of its fundamental rights, and denied its language, customs, and traditions. Likewise, commercial influences and adaptation of neighboring communities? patterns into Kurdish style can also been regarded as part of the problem. Some rug types that may have been woven by Kurds were actually a response to different commercial influences, thus shedding no light on any Kurdish weaving tradition. Despite this fact, not only does the Kurdish weaving tradition support the conclusion that Kurds have inhabited the mountains of Kurdistan since antiquity, but it also purports that the tradition of goat and sheep herding originates from the same place.

The most convenient way to refer to Kurdish weaving traditions would be to classify them according to their political unit. In Iran, Kurdish rug production is divided between Iranian Kurdistan and the province of Khorasan. The rug-weaving tradition and style of this latter originates from a fusion of Central Anatolian and Turcoman rug-weaving art. In Western Iranian Kurdistan, two distinguished rug types emerged during the 19th century, namely the Sennes and the Bijars. The Sennes, woven in Sanandaj, are a fine construction, while the Bijars are notably heavy and tightly woven. The third area of Iranian Kurdistan is Sauj Bulaq (now Mahabad), where the rugs are reputed for their radiant wool and deep colors. 

The Kurdish weaving area in Anatolia can be divided into three geographical areas: the areas west, north, and south of Lake Van (in the Hakkari Mountains). Unfortunately, the Kurdish rugs from the west have long been mistaken for those made by Yuruks, a nomadic Turkish people. It is quite common in this region to name the woven rugs after Kurdish principal markets such as Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, and Sivas. In addition to these, there are many lustrous kilims woven in these areas, especially Gaziantep, Malayta, and Sivas.

In comparison to other Anatolian villages, Kurdish rugs? shapes and structures from the area west of Lake Van resemble other Anatolian rugs despite being tightly woven and of darker and richer dyes than their neighbors. North of Lake Van are the woven products of Erzurum, Kars, and Kagizman, where some design characteristics are similar to those in Georgia and Azerbaijan. South of Lake Van are the rugs and kilims of the large Hartushi and Herki tribes. Of these kilims, the best known are the nearly square Van kilims, woven in two sections by the Hartushi women. Other rugs of a smaller format are woven by the nomadic Herki tribe. This mountainous area south of the lake is the Kurdish heartland where some of the most authentic weaving is still being done.

The Kurdish rugs and kilims of Iraq are entirely of tribal origin. The weaving areas in Iraqi Kurdistan fall into three distinct regions: the Erbil plain, the area northeast of Erbil (centered on the Herki, Surchi, and Keylani tribes), and the area north of Mosul, where kilims predominate.

Among Syria?s Kurdish production, most kilims relate to those woven by the Kurds north of the border in Turkey. The term ?Aleppo Kilim? refers to those articles woven in areas that are now part of Turkey, stretching as far northwest as Gaziantep. The Kurds of Caucasus are also known to have been creative weavers. The major problem here is that, with a few exceptions, we are not certain which of the Caucasian rugs were woven by Kurds and which by Azeri Turks. There is a tendency to assign some of the shaggiest and most primitive pieces to Kurdish weavers.

These regions are thousands of kilometres apart, and, for perhaps 500 years, their cultural developments were isolated from one another. Despite their lengthy separation, it is all the more astounding to witness the unaltered patterns and manifest production techniques (both woven and knotted), which have almost entirely maintained their mutual symbolism.

Want to buy a rug? Here are some tips. Before you buy a carpet, spread it on the floor. It should lie smoothly on the surface without waves and lumps. Then ensure the form is sustained; in other words, whether or not the edges are equal. The colors should be clearly pronounced and not flow into each other. Be sure to bargain, because the initial cost is likely to be overstated by at least 30 percent. Buying an old carpet of good quality at a decent price will be more of a task for rug experts. The age of the carpet can be determined by the color, quality of fabrics, and patterns. The surface of the pile should not be tinted or subject to alteration; this can be easily determined from the inside of the rug. Actually, the old carpet can be restored without restoration being too noticeable.

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