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Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry Anderson: part 9

Anderson asserts that the Jamshidi, Firozkohi and Hazara all worked as 'copy artists' around Herat. But I remember buying rugs called Jamshidi in Kabul that were fairly loosely woven, not like workshop products at all.

Regarding the suggestion that the Jamshidi and Firozkohi were 'exiles' from the Elburz Mountains, I was told a similar story by a Jamshidi Uzbek, who said his people had come from the Takht-e-Jamshid ('Throne of Jamshid'), but been forced out of Iran because of their Sunni faith. This may be another case of one dispersed tribe becoming allied with several different groups.
I am surprised that Anderson says the Hazaras were not traditional pile rug weavers. I saw many rugs of the shaggy julkhyr type identified as Hazara while I was in Kabul. Hajji Yusef, a Hazara rug dealer and repairer, showed me some, saying that they were exactly like the Uzbek ones but that the colours and weave of the Hazara type were inferior.

his people had come from the Takht-e-Jamshid ('Throne of Jamshid'), but been forced out of Iran

23. Jehan Begi (?) prayer rug, Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area, Khorasan, late 19th century. 0.79 x 1.27m (2'7" x 4'2"). Warp: Z2S, natural ivory wool, depressed; weft: dark brown wool and camel hair, 2 shoots; knot: wool, AS open left, 10H x 14V = 140/in2 (2,170/dm2); sides: 4 cords 3Z(Z2S) ivory wool overwrapped in figure-8 with goat hair; ends: bands of weft-float, stepped discontinuous weft-float, slit-tapestry, sumakh and plain tapestry; colours: 10. Belouch Prayer Rugs, pl.28, attributed to "Turkestan, Baluch", subsequently reattributed to "Jamshidi, upper Kushk Valley – lower Murghab". Private collection USA, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

Anderson refers to plate 26 in Michael Craycraft's Belouch Prayer Rugs as a funeral rug (11). This is new to me – such rugs are very rare, but funerals are very common. Has anyone ever seen one being used on a bier besides Anderson? Was this its only use? It's possible, of course. He didn't comment on Craycraft's reference to the "albino camel wool" in the field being "attributable to the Dasht-e-Margo and Dash-e-Khash desert basins".

As for the type which Craycraft calls Kizil Bash Turkoman (10), which Boucher attributes to the Baizidi, and Anderson says was made by a Jehan Begi woman married to a Salar Khani man – I have never heard of the Baizidi and if this is any kind of Turkoman I'll eat an albino camel raw. I would have thought Jehan Begi myself.

Anderson's idea of the fixed and static nature of design within each of the Baluch subtribes is new to me. That a certain border or field design is unique to one group and may appear only as a result of tribal intermarriage, or as a result of defeat by another tribe, seems extraordinary. It reminds me of Moshkova's 'living gül, dead gül' theory. In north Afghanistan rug weaving is a communal activity: one woman, usually the oldest, oversees the process and all the women and girls do the weaving. Anderson seems to imply that each rug was woven by one woman, or at least that the designs could be relevant to her alone.

Pathans in Quetta, early 20th century

Anderson's idea of the fixed and static nature of design within each of the Baluch subtribes is new to me. That a certain border or field design is unique to one group and may appear only as a result of tribal intermarriage, or as a result of defeat by another tribe, seems extraordinary. It reminds me of Moshkova's 'living gül, dead gül' theory. In north Afghanistan rug weaving is a communal activity: one woman, usually the oldest, oversees the process and all the women and girls do the weaving. Anderson seems to imply that each rug was woven by one woman, or at least that the designs could be relevant to her alone. I agree that plate 93 in the 1990 ICOC exhibition catalogue is typical Jehan Begi (21). They were all over the bazaar in the 1970s. I've never heard of Karai rugs, though there is something called a Karai kebab – I've eaten them.

Plate 95 in the ICOC catalogue – Arab Baluch, I agree (15). There are Arab groups all over Afghanistan allied with other groups. There are Arab Baluch, Arab Uzbek and I've even heard of Arab Turkoman, although I've never met one.

25. Rukshani Baluch carpet, Baddini tribe, Nushki area, Chagai district, Baluchistan, late 18th or 19th century. 1.45 x 4.65m (4'9" x 15'3"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool; weft: brown, grey brown and apricot wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2ZS, wool, AS open left, 6-7H x 6-9V = 36-63/in2 (558-976/dm2); sides: not original; ends: bands of weft-faced plainweave, with weft substitution decoration at bottom; colours: 20. Eiland, Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, pl.97, attributed as "Aimaq or Baluchi, mid-18th century", subsequently reassigned to "Taimani Aimaq, Khiva, with one flatwoven end done in Baluchistan". Anne Halley Collection, Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

So far as I know none of them still speak Arabic, but use the language of their allied group. They did a lot of the weaving in Afghanistan and in the Bukhara Emirate, but receive very little credit for it today. Traditionally the men wove as well as the women – unique in this part of the world. Arab weavings are diverse in colour and technique, but I've found that they all seem to favour linear designs arranged in bands, like this rug.

What a strange long carpet plate 97 in the ICOC catalogue is(25). The kilim at one end only comes from Pakistani Baluchistan. Without the kilim it would be impossible to identify. Such kilims were common in the bazaars about ten years ago, but I've never seen it combined with pile weaving before. Anderson makes a very convincing argument about its origins, but the design is a straight copy of a Beshir rug, with everything but the warm Beshir yellow. I can't agree that Sistani and Turkoman culture are the same. I've been in both places and I can say that the food, language, clothing and architecture are different. This is a Baluch copy of a Turkoman rug.

26. Arab Baluch carpet, Firdows area, Khorasan, 19th century. 1.42 x 2.54m (4'8" x 8'4"). Warp: Z3S, white cotton, on one level; weft: mostly white cotton, some grey, 2 shoots, loosely packed; knot: 2-3Z, wool, AS open right, 9H x 10V = 90/in2 (1,395/dm2); sides: 1 cord of 2 3-4Z(Z3S) cotton warps overwrapped and secured to sides with wefts around the outer cord in figure-8, covered with simple overcast of goat hair; ends: top – balanced cotton plainweave with 2 shoots of indigo wool flanking remants of weft substitution zig-zag meander. 'Baluch Perspectives', HALI 59, p.114, attributed to "Qain or Torbat-e-Heydariyeh, late 18th century", subsequently reattributed as "Arab or possibly Afshar, Birjand district, late 19th century". Anne Halley Collection, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

I must agree with Michael Craycraft's Aimaq attribution for no.8 in the Baluch Poll (27), though the field design and colours are Taimani. It is very hard to identify rugs from photos, but this looks too dull and unfocused for a Salar Khani weaving. That tan/yellow is an Aimaq marker for me. I don't know why Craycraft thinks this is from Khiva.

I wouldn't call no.2 in the HALI Poll (26) a tribal rug. It was woven by a committee and to me looks like the grandfather of all the commercial village rugs that came out of Adraskand and Shindand. Except for the border it is Persian and nasty. Just my opinion though.

Idon't know what plate 30 in Belouch Prayer Rugs is, but I wouldn't call it Kurd (18). Prayer rugs and bags with the spade-like figures in the camel field were common in Afghan bazaars in the 1970s and 1980s. The prayer rugs seemed rather small, but they often had a nice thick pile. I don't know of Kurds weaving in Afghanistan and I doubt these were imported from Iran. With its crisp drawing, bright brick red and bright white wool, plate 28 in Belouch Prayer Rugs is, I agree, probably Jehan Begi (23). Anderson also mentions the Baluch, Arabs and Lokharis of northern Afghanistan. I've met Lokharis in Kabul. They weave those sumakh type flatweaves and donkey bags with the red field and eight-pointed stars. I thought they were Uzbeks from their weaving, but when I met them they denied it. Persian was all they spoke. I even tried bargaining with them in Uzbeki but received only blank stares.

He also mentions the dark kilims woven in two pieces and stitched down the centre. These, I agree, are woven by Arabs, probably in central and southern Afghanistan, as they were marketed out of Herat and Kandahar, not Mazar-i-Sharif. He doesn't mention pile carpets woven in two pieces and sewn together. They are very common in Afghanistan though they are not popular in the West. Most of them seem to be either Aimaq or Mushwani. I was never able to find out why they were woven that way, though I heard people say that the weavers were nomads and couldn't carry wide looms.

27. Salar Khani rug, Khorasan, 19th century. 1.22 x 1.50m (4'0" x 4'11"). Warp: Z2S, mostly natural ivory wool, with small sections of grey-brown and mixed yarns, depressed; weft: mostly natural camel hair, with small sections of dark brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2-3Z, wool (a few knots in white cotton), SY, 9H x 9V = 81/in2 (1,255/dm2); sides: missing; ends: top – missing, bottom – remnants of weft-faced plainweave in red wool; colours: 11. 'Baluch Perspectives', HALI 59, p.117, attributed as "Aimaq, Khiva region (?)", subsequently assigned to "Aimaq, north Amu Darya, Syr Darya or south Aral region, early 19th century". Anne Halley Collection, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

I wasn't too satisfied with this. I was in a Kabul rug shop once where the shopkeeper was trying to sell some of these two-piece rugs to some tourists. When they asked why the rugs were sewn down the middle he gave a very interesting explanation, saying that one side was woven by the groom's family and the other by the bride's. On the marriage night the pieces were joined. After the tourists left I asked where he had heard this story; he told me he had made it up. He seemed to be quite proud and why not? It was a great story. His customers enjoyed it. Was he a liar? No, just a guy trying to entertain his guests and sell a few rugs. I think that lot of common misinformation comes out of situations like this. Shopkeepers feel that they should say something interesting to the Western buyers who seem to expect a story with their rug. Those of us who lived in Afghanistan are familiar with the expression, "Kasesh muft ast "('The story is free').

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994
http://www.tcoletribalrugs.com/article10JA.html

Anselmo, California.

From the Horses Mouth

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994

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