You may have seen plentiful literature on Oriental, tribal and antique rugs but you hardly find any useful information on semi old or tribal new rugs, which now are available in the market.
THE-RUGMAN’s purpose in uploading this site is to guide an individual (shopper) in selecting genuine tribal, semi tribal, village and urban rugs made by Nomads of Afghanistan and Iran during the last fifty years as well as now.
The tribal life of Afghanistan and Iran is almost in its last stage due to rapid political and economical development in these countries, and most of the tribal people in these areas are opting an urban life style. In one sense this is good as these people can live a better and easier life and can achieve an improved livelihood but in another sense it makes a closing stage to the tribal way of rug weaving.
Talking about Central Asian tribal people and their rugs:
Tribal weavers believe in the magic of their carpets. They weave wishes into the rugs that enfold their lives. From earthen floors, the sides of tents, and entrance ways, their rugs protect, remind, encourage, and inspire them. Their carpets project their future and embody their past. They are their works of art, their identity, and ultimately, in the tribes’ harsh and changing environments, all that remains of their lives.
That is of the most importance when buying a tribal carpet: Its essence is not its colors, number of knots, and consistency in workmanship. It is, rather, the heartbeat, breath, and a little of the soul of the being - usually the woman - that made it.
As he learns about the isolated and threatened worlds of the tribes that inhabit what was Persia centuries ago, the shopper, whose first concern in choosing a carpet had been whether it will go with the lamps, curtains & sofas, begins to realize that each rug is the legacy of a proud woman, her family and her people.
Each carpet is made for a family’s own use, according to its desires. None were made to be sold. Although every family knows its carpets are assets, they part with them only when a new carpet is made and a need arises to purchase grains and live stock and sometimes reluctantly and unfortunately, when a family need arises.
The Russian war in Afghanistan drove many of its tribal people into Pakistan. As refugees, they had to resort to selling their valuables and carpets had the main role. Under the Taliban, the tribes remained disturbed and produced fewer carpets for their own use. Since the new regime came into power, many of the tribes have returned to their original areas, but their way of life has still not returned to normal. In this respect, the number, age and kinds of tribal carpets that come to market are indicators of tribal welfare.
Long ago, the areas in which the tribes lived acquired the names of the tribes. Over the centuries, families migrated into other tribal areas, but retained their tribal identities. Thus the Turkmen people, originally of the earliest civilization in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The cradle of the Bloch, whose name means “nomads,” is Afghanistan, but they have also spread into other countries. Likewise Shirwans who originate in the mountains of Caucuses have ended their journey finding a better place for living a good tribal life in the north-east (Kohi Mazar) of Afghanistan.
To live a good tribal life three things are very important; good fertilized land, lot of natural water and good weather . Afghanistan has all three things which made many of the outside tribes like Turkmens from Turkmenistan, Kazaks from Kazakhstan, Uzbeks from Uzbekistan and Shirwans from Mountains of Armenia & Azerbaijan (Caucuses) come to make their living in different parts of northern Afghanistan
When you buy a tribal carpet today, it is identified by the tribe that made it and not necessarily the area that its tribal forefathers called home. The hundreds of tribes do have symbols and styles that once set them apart from one another, but now, they have begun to borrow designs and patterns; so a symbol used by the Bloch Bashers, who like blue backgrounds, could end up in one of the garden squares of a Baktiari (Persian).
Regardless of tribe, some carpets can be identified by their uses. For instance, a girl begins weaving her “wedding rugs” before she is married. She does this “with full interest” because this is to be her life. In a wedding rug, the weaver will usually include a ram’s horn sometimes so stylized that you have to look carefully to realize it’s a ram, although its horns usually give it away. Alone, the ram expresses her wish for a virile husband. A pair of rams is a desire for a child. Also a wedding rug will usually have a turkey or chicken whose eggs are also symbols of fruitfulness. Sometimes you’ll find a human figure, her groom. Or in older rugs, a girl may have included her groom and put herself by his side.
Prayer rugs mostly have different shapes of Mosques* and sometimes you will find holy masque of Qaaba (Mecca) as well as holy masque of Prophet (peace be upon him) Even , very rarely , some prayer rugs have the imprint of two hands, symbolizing the hands of Mother Fatima, and indicating the portion of the carpet that faces the holy city of Mecca. It ensures the worshiper will not place his/her head against the end of the carpet on which he/she rests his/her feet.
Dining rugs (Sufra) may have coffee pots or bowls in their designs. Sometimes, a specific pattern of inner frame as the shape of a table & people sitting around it.
Door rugs, known as HATCHLOO or ENSI which hang in the entrances to tents, can nearly always be identified by their two geometric panels, one above the other.
For a long while I had wondered why the top strings of very old “tree of life” carpets were worn and soiled from handling while the bottom strings, which are usually within the reach of toddlers and the curious, remained comparatively fresh. I learned that the old people believed the roots of the tree of life were in heaven which is up in the sky and the branches are down on earth; therefore the old carpets had been hung upside down
Learning the secrets of tribal carpets is much like studying the great masters of European art. There are hundreds of artists from hundreds of schools who have been developing their craft and art over hundreds of centuries. Getting a map of the lands of the weavers, reading books on carpets, s tudying tribal carpets and visiting genuine tribal carpet stores will give you a good start into understanding not only what is said about carpets, but what the carpets are trying to say to you.