Archive for October 29, 2009

Kazakh Carpets Have Symbolic Design and Mystery

PA280051Julia Connelly stepped in my “Listening and Note Taking” class to give a lecture about her ongoing fascination with Kazakh carpets.  She has a BFA degree in art specializing in Interior Design and when she arrived to Kazakhstan about six years ago she has been researching the mysteries behind this very complex art form.PA280050PA280052PA280053

Notice how one of the three carpets Julia brought has the woman’s name (Rakya) woven in and also the year “1963” when it was worked on.  Something like this would be a part of a woman’s dowry in order to be eligible for marriage.  A carpet typically took one year to accomplish. 

Julia also shared about the Pazyryk carpet that is also known as the Altai rug which measures 6 feet by 6 feet 6 inches.  It was found in south Siberia in 1947 by a Russian archeologist, S.J. Rudenko.  This well preserved carpet (found in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg) was in a grave mound belonging to a fifth century B.C. prince.  Soon after the grave was built and sealed, it was robbed of all its treasures but the theives took no interest in a heavy carpet.  The grave filled with water and then the burial chamber froze and like a deep freeze, it preserved the colors of this carpet.

Julia went on to explain about the dyeing process as well as the weaving on different kinds of looms.  She compared the carpets from Kazakhstan compared to Turkmenistan.  The striking features that I noticed as different is that Kazakh carpets were more creative and not repetitive and seemed to be more expansive in their design and not limited to the same blueprint.

The mystery remains as to why the production of Kazakh carpets that had gone on for 1,000s of year stopped abruptly in the mid-1970s.  These are questions I need answered: Was there a Soviet law prohibiting the sale of these carpets?  Did it endanger the weaver to have symbols that told stories too dangerous to tell?  From what I understood, the families kept their carpets within their own family and for special occasions such as weddings.  But then there is the whole other mystery behind bride-snatching or kid-napping?  Was it so that the woman wouldn’t have to do the painstaking work of a carpet? 

I need my Kazakh readers to respond to some of these baffling questions. Julia commented to me before this lecture that in her researching at the archives and libraries in Almaty, that her work took different zig zags depending on what she found out.  She may have started with one idea and meeting certain people or reading something, made her go in a different direction than originally planned.  I have to tell my students that that is precisely what research does, you can have a plan but depending on the data you unearth, it may have entirely different results surface.  As with the carpets and their significance in the old days, what are the mysteries they keep from us today?

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