PROJECTS IN PAKISTAN
Woven History’s projects in Pakistan involve Turkmen, Uzbek, Hazara, and Tadjik refugees, all of whom are from Afghanistan. These people are, historically, some of the finest weavers. We provide the materials (wool, dyes, etc.,) designs, color combinations, sizes, and quality. Most of the designs are traditional, which we revive, including the Pazyryk, the oldest known carpet in history, fragments of which now reside in The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. We also produce designs from the outside. Although we have an exceptional selection, we will also accept special orders.
The Afghan Turkmen refugees weave Woven History’s Ashina line of carpets, which are some of the finest in the market. Afghan Hazara refugees weave pile rugs with mostly Caucasian designs. Afghan-Uzbek refugees weave kilims, and the Tadjik are the producers of the sumacs, double-stitched, hand-embroidered carpets.
The various Turkmen Tribes are among the quintessential nomads of Central Asia. Although it is not known who first developed the art of weaving a pile carpet, it has long been suggested that the Turkmen were among the first to refine this art and bring it to an unsurpassed level of technical, visually expressive, and symbolically transcendent mastery. All this was achieved while maintaining the strictly tribal and generally nomadic character of their existence, something reflected in the purely functional format of the great majority of their weavings.
The Ersari are one of the larger main groupings of Turkmen Tribes. They traditionally (in recent centuries) lived in the more eastern part of the range of the Turkmen, near to Bokhara and Samarkand. After the Russian revolution most moved south to join their relations in northern Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan saw these refugees once more displaced, as many fled to Pakistan in order to maintain their religion and way of life.
It is there that this project took root. Brave and industrious people, they were willing to do whatever was necessary to maintain themselves and their way of life. What they have always known best was weaving carpets. Due to the pressures of the modern world the art and technique of dyeing wool with vegetable dyes for carpets had largely passed out of existence in the last 40 to 80 years. It was the initial aim of our project to rediscover and revive those techniques, and then combine them with traditional Ersari designs that had also fallen out of use.
Having lived somewhat nearer than most ot the Turkmen tribes to the great Central Asian commercial and artistic centers of Bokhara and Samarkand, the Ersari adopted a far greater range of color and design in their weavings than many of the other remote Turkmen tribes. It has been our intent to attempt to revive this rich tradition of design and color in all the glorious hues of their original vegetal dyed antecedents.
The principle dye sources we use to achieve this are madder root for red, indigo for blue, and asparak flower or pomegranate husks for yellow. Manipulation and combination of these dye sources allow us to achieve a wide palette of colors. Wool is as important as dyes to the creation of a great rug. To this end we use only hand carded, hand-spun wool from Afghanistan. While our wool source may vary from time to time we are constantly searching for the best available and the wool most consistent with the lustrous, long staple wool found in antique Ersari Turkmen carpets.
All of our carpets are washed in soap and water only. While they may shine less initially we feel that the long term benefit to the customer is great. This is the way in which the carpets we are recreating were traditionally finished. The wonderful sheen which they developed came after years of use and washing, and we believe that our carpets will achieve the same if given the chance. Each carpet contains a small inscription, usually woven into one corner or end giving the name of the weaving family, the place woven and the date, as well as the weaver’s preferred choice of identity, usually “Turkmen Mahajer” — Turkmen refugee. These inscriptions are in Persian characters, however English translations are available. While not something that was so common traditionally, we feel that these inscriptions provide a personal connection between the ultimate recipient of these carpets and the hard work and artistry of the weavers.