Anatolian prayer kilims

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Posted by Marla Mallett on December 06, 1998 at 18:48:28:

I’ll add my two cents worth on the question of ethnographic “namazlik”--that is, rugs with arch or prayer designs. Some elderly weavers in Central Anatolia have told me that in their younger days, in their families, in their villages, it was customary to HANG a kilim with a niche design in each house to simulate the mosque mihrab and qibla indicating the direction of Mecca. For prayer, they spread ordinary rugs. Thus each household needed only one kilim namazlik and these women insisted that they did not
make others to sell, though as their daughters learned to weave pile carpets, most of that knotted pile production was sent to the market.

These accounts were given to me by families who, many years before, had abandoned their villages and moved to town. When told that Westerners often used pile or
slit-tapestry prayer rugs on their floors, these folks typically expressed surprise and horror that anyone should actually be so disrespectful as to walk on such pieces.

Kilim weaving is, of course, mainly a nomadic fiber art form, and prayer kilims may be a relatively recent development. Most extant Anatolian slit-tapestry namazlik pieces date from within the last three centuries. This is understandable if they were indeed made to hang on walls, and had no function in goathair tents. They seem to have appeared as kilim and brocade-weaving nomads settled and entered transitional periods in which flatweave traditions gradually gave way to pile production for the market.


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