From Hamadan to Algeria
ACOR strives to keep its programs light-hearted and fun. I’ve tried to do the Mystery Rug sessions in that spirit, while providing guidance in identifying rugs. The rugs shown to the panel (they do examine them ahead) may be “mysterious” by reason of origin or use or because of particular features of drawing or structure.
I try to select reasonably attractive pieces with large graphics that are visible from the back of the room.
Following are some comments with some images that may be more helpful.
The panel largely agreed that the first rug shown was a NWP pile rug of a type seldom seen. John Collins recalled a similar Afshar, but this single-wefted small rug with a ghostly prayer niche is probably from the Hamadan area.
The border is commonly seen in Western Persian rugs.
This rug is exceedingly rare (I no longer use the word unique) because the field and the warps and the wefts are of camel hair. Also, the six animals on each side are probably goats because of the horns, but the bodies somewhat resemble some Belouch birds. These are clearly not birds.
Alberto Levi has a keen interest in minimalist rugs as well as Kurdish weaving and told me that he has never seen a sofreh size camel hair rug with an arch.
The next rug discussed was a great puzzler. When he first saw this pile rug before the session, and knowing that he would be asked to identify it, Danny Shaffer’s reaction was a simple: “Oh, shit.”
One member of the audience said that as a youth there was a similar rug in his room in Algeria. There were some guesses at North Africa, but no one could figure this one out. The Algerian hyppthesis may be the best.
The structure was really odd. Some wefts were red, others white, but the colors varied on sections of each shoot. Where the ivory joined the red and brown of the outer border, the back revealed what looked similar to a four cord selvedge. That was not, as John may have thought, where something was added. But the wefts changed from ivory to red. The rug is as it came off the loom. There were other structural anomalies. My subsequent brief search for Algerian rugs revealed one that looked something like this one.
Even Bob Mann was dumbfounded by the structure. We all seemed willing to accept the Algerian suggestion in the absence of any better attribution.
My Husband recognized this rug. He said it comes from a region in Eastern Algeria,
AKA Kabylie. The rugs orginating from this region are often similar to those
of the Native American in the Southwest.
Thank you Lucie,
I will pass that information on to the owner. I previously said that one of the registrants in the session identified it as Algerian, so your husband's comment confirm that attribution.
You make a reference to a similarity to weavings of the American Southwest, as many people do. But any such similarity is due solely to the trading posts copying designs from the Middle East. Sheep with spinable wool didn't exist in North America until the Spanish brought them.
I suspect that these Algerian motifs far, far predate the arrival of the Spanish in North America.
making rugs from foreign models
The rug discussed here can be Algerian, that means "from Algeria" and not necessarily "with pure genuine Algerian design". The first thing that this rug makes me to think is an ENSI. I think this rug can be a copy by Algerian weavers of a turkmen ensi : the general composition with panels, the main field border displaying a modified SAINAK design, the Sainak motif being completed by a star. It is clear that this copy was not made with the model in front of the weaver but from memory, after a rug viewed somewhere. It is not rare in Maghreb that rugs made in towns and even in the country were made after turkish or persian models interpretated with the local style (Rabbat carpets are good ex of this pratice). There is no reasons for we cannot find also this practice in Algeria. The copied and transformed designs become at their turn types that are largely copied even by weavers in tribes (some Ouaouzguit moroccan carpets display urban "Rabbat" designs).
Yes, the conventional wisdom suggests that weavings of the Maghrib are interpretations of foreign designs, but I do believe that much evidence exists which points in the opposite direction, and that the Maghrib and North Africa could in fact be the origins of many of these design motives. I constructed a rather long winded Salon on the subject here on Turkotek some time ago.
I think we can resume the situation concerning the weaving motifs in Maghreb as there were several layers of history and culture.
The first layer could be that we can name the neolithic layer in which we can put all the archaic designs as zig zag, checkerboard, lines, geometric symbols, lozangic "vulvoid" motifs and other female symbols (toothed vaginas, goddess...). This layer is shared by weavers in a very large area from far east to Maghreb. For ex we find the same vulvoid motifs in persian kilms and gabbehs and on Moroccan berber production.
The second layer can be made with all the designs shared by nomadic peoples from Arabia to Maghreb and can be related to the islamisation of those peoples and with the westward movement of this religion in the maghreb area. We can find the same motifs among the bedouin tribes of arabia or Lybia and in Tunisia and morocco, and in algeria too.
The third layer is made of the Turkich cultural influence that have taken place later. This aesthetical influence reached the Maghreb by the egyptian way and also by Spain. This influence was typicaly effective through the commercial exchanges, and typicaly an urban phenomenon. The other layers concerned the nomads in the country. The urban rugs of Rabbat are typicaly products of this period and of this style.
I am not sure that it could be evident that there has had by the past a cultural movement from the Maghreb toward the far east that could explain some stylistic relation between for ex moroccan motifs and persian or anatolian motifs.
About the rug discussed here, in my opinion, it is unlikely to considere that this rug could be a proptotype for an ensi. The contrary is more likely, and this motif on an algerian rug can take place in the third cultural layer.
examples on line
Bonsoir à tous
In order to illustrate my paper it seems interesting to go to the Moroccan rugs displayed on the site quoted by steve and on the picture shown in the second post of the Steve's thread.
On the saulnier site we can see wonderful Ait Bouichaouen rugs that are clearly related to my first "neolithic" layer, with all the geometric and symbolic vocabulary including vulvoid motifs and parturition meanders.
On the second picture we can see that we can name a great tent divider or wall that is clearly related to my second "bedouin" layer. the motifs are quite different and show a more "regulated" tribal style. No evidences of urban or Turkish influence, but a good ex of the geometric regulation of the design.
I didn't intend to imply that the motifs in the Algerian rug originated in Algeria, only that designs and motifs from throughout the Islamic lands are much older that anything resembling them that we see in North American weavings.
The more rugs I see, the more convinced I become that all rugs are from the same design gene pool. Colors change, borders change, but the motifs are repeated everywhere.
That's one reason why this rug was a mystery. Its colors and motifs could have been from a lot of cultures. But the structure was so odd.
As to the function of this rug, a common suggestion was that is was a sofreh, but still too large for one.
I see no reason to connect it in any way with an engsi.
If we search a model of rug from which this rug could be copied only the ensi shares sufficient design with it : the general scheme of the composition with clealy drawn panels and the field border with sainak motif. The sofreh could also be a good candidate, but there is no known sofreh with sainak border.
If we search design models in other artifacts than rugs and weavings we can find antique mosaics that can display such composition and motifs, especially the "greek" motif that this rug contains in the horizontal bars.
The only typical tribal motif in this rug is the meander in the outside border and in the central field border.