Friday, March 24, 2006

Mixed genres #1.

The art of weaving carpets was born out of necessity; the need to keep out the extreme cold of the steppes of Asia.
The migrating yoruks, the nomadic people of Central Asia, learned to use goat hair to make their tents and their yurts.
Since goat hair is much longer and stiffer than sheep’s wool, and perhaps more plentiful, it was used in a technique known as flatweave, and made the tents waterproof and windproof. However, the yoruks needed also to protect themselves from the damp rising from the ground, and applied the same techniques to making floor coverings, which they called ‘kilims’.
At this time of pagan belief, as designs came to be used on kilims, stylized depictions of worshipped gods came to be woven into the floor coverings. It would also have been only natural for the women weaving their rugs to portray objects, creatures, symbols from their lives of hardship on their way to more prosperous lands.
The yoruks also used kilims as blankets against the cold. It is easy to imagine fathers and mothers telling their sleepy children stories and pointing to the designs on their coverings before sleep made little eyes heavy. Pelts were used, adding pile to the basic flatweave to give some comfort and much needed warmth to blankets, floor-coverings, and to coverings on cradles, their corners tied to the tent poles overhead so that mothers could rock them back and forth to lull their babies to sleep.
Later on, the same materials and techniques were used to make the saddle-bags for the horses and camels that must have played a vital part in the transporting of homes across vast barren stretches of land.
On the move, all these materials could be folded and thrown on a horse’s back quickly and easily, making nomadic life more bearable for the womenfolk.
Knotted carpets were made, and the oldest surviving pile carpet was discovered in the grave of a Scythian prince in the Pyrak valley in the Altai Mountains of Siberia and what is now Mongolia. This carpet is at present displayed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This carpet was woven with the Turkish double knot and contains no less than 347,000 knots per square metre (255 per square inch) and has been carbon-dated to have come from the 5th Century BC. The Pazyryk or Altai carpet has a sophisticated design and weave displaying a long history and tradition of carpet weaving. Robert L Fielding


The pattern of life and I do not just mean the life of my wife, my children,
our family, but I mean the life of our people, this pattern is something bigger
than all of us. It is decreed by the will of Allah who is looking over us, and
so it is right that everything we do reflects his will, in the patterns of our

Birth and death, the joining together of two people, the bringing into this
world of new believers, woven into this pattern of our lives.
Everything around us, above our heads, and below our feet, running through our
veins, coursing in our bodies, is the blood of our fathers, and their fathers,
our ancestry within this same pattern, and this goes on and on.

In our houses, on our floors, where our children play their games in the cold
nights of Anadolu, there are carpets covered with patterns, and these patterns
represent the patterns of our lives, our hopes, our wishes for the future, for
our children, and for their children, and also for this earth which nourishes us
and keeps us, by the will of Allah.

This rug is called by us, naklemi hali, and the symbols that represent the
reality of our spirit on this earth, are harmonious, they express the wish for
happiness, for fertility, and for protection. That is all. What is there that is
worth more than these few words, and what lies behind them? Here, in Anadolu,
where the ground is hard, and the soil rough and stony, the weather above us
cruel and harsh for us that live in this part of our earth, we measure our
happiness, not as some do, by the wealth of possessions, but by the fulfillment
of life, living under a sky, upon a stony land, watching the patterns of life
unfolding daily. A person dies, a baby comes to one of us, this is life,
together in something that is bigger than riches, bigger than personal ambition,
bigger than fine clothes, costly jewellery, but not bigger than a child playing
on a rug, warm, well fed, watching for its mother's smile, a pat on the head
from its father.

On this rug you will find the edges are filled with running water, dragons,
scorpions, and stars. Running water stands for fertility, and purification. It
is good for water to symbolize these things, for that is what water does for our
bodies. It purifies and cleanses, and being pure and clean, we are fertile. Our
womenfolk are fecund, and we, the men of our village are virile and strong. pure
in our love for the one woman in our life, and the children that she bears us.

Dragons and scorpions protect us, for even under the sky, willed by Allah, we
need protection from those who would do us harm. The wild beasts of the
mountains would tear us limb from limb, but being creatures of Allah's creation,
they are free from blame, shameless, and at least they do not defile our names,
that is left to our kind.

The wolves in their lairs, know that we are sad crawlers on the hills, and we
must sometimes go that way to feed our beasts, so that they in their turn can
feed us.

The stars look down, and they are looking even when we cannot see them in our
daylight. They are still watching us, so we find our happiness under the stars,
even under those we cannot see, and so they represent our happiness.

Our children play under the stars, and they play on our rugs, with stars all
around the edges, and with the will of Allah, they will be happy, as we, their
mothers and their fathers are happy.

*Ramazan Turkoglu is a nom de plume of Robert L Fielding


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