There are feature stories and other writings about Woven History in several national newspapers and magazines, including Sky Magazine offered on many airlines. Woven History can be found in just about every City Guide Book, some of which are Let's Go, Time Out, Capitol Hill Map and Guide, and Fodor's.

There has been editorials on Woven history and Silk Road in Architectural Digest and Hali Magazine. There has also been feature stories, articles and interviews done on Woven History and Silk Road in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Jerusalem Post and other national and international publications. Voice of America's Turkish and Uzbek Services have done documentaries on Woven History and Silk Road as well.

Listen to Reporter Alex Van Oss from NPR's Weekend Edition, talk with Mehmet Yalcin at Woven History.
(Click on Real Media, to listen to the interview once you are on NPR's page)

Watch Woven History in Exploring America VOA Uzbek TV

See the feature story published in the Battle Creek Enquirer.

It has been published in dozens of local newspapers around the country, which are affiliates of Gannett News Service.

Refugees keep Culture Alive in Colorful Carpets
Hollis L. Engley
Gannett News Service*

Washington, D.C. - Indigo makes the deep purple blue of the tree trunks on this wool carpet from Pakistan. Walnut husks make the brown of others. Yellow leaves come from pomegranate husks and isparak flowers.

The variegated green of the background is wool dyed once in yellow, then overdyed with indigo. Strong spotlights glint off the vegetable-dyed wool like sun through stained glass, transmitting a dozen shattered colors.

This five-by-eight-foot carpet is just one of hundreds piled against the walls of Woven History, a shop in the small front room of an old rowhouse on Capitol Hill. Mehmet Yalcin sells hand-woven carpets from Tibet and Pakistan, Nepal, India, Turkey and Iran.

Carpets to fit a dressing room, a living room or a ball room. In sunny weather, Yalcin spreads some on his few square feet of front lawn, where their jewel-like colors and soft details draw passing shoppers from nearby Eastern Market.

By the time a customer's visit is over, Yalcin, a native of the Taurus mountains of Southern Turkey, is sweating from lifting thick, heavy carpets from piles and spreading them on the floor.

"This is a beautiful one," he says. "You must see this."

Most of the people who make the carpets found at Yalcin's shop are refugees. Exiled Tibetans living in Nepal work through the Tibetan Rug Weaving Project; Afghanis in Pakistan work with the Afghan Turkmen Vegetable Dye Weaving Project. Both projects were begun by the Cambridge, Mass. group Cultural Survival, of which Mehmet Yalcin is a part.

Though displaced by politics and war, the refugees kept the weaving skills of generations. Now, between 2,000 and 3,000 refugees support themselves making vegetable-dyed wool rugs that are exported to the United States. Their work is sold in a few shops in this country, though most is sold with the work of other international projects at Cultural Survival's biannual bazaar in Cambridge. (The next bazaar is Dec. 13-15.)

Some carpets are in traditional patterns, some contemporary and others from revived historical designs given to the weavers by Cultural Survival.

Adults do the work, he says. He is conscious of the virtual slave labor of children in some parts of Asia. "What we try to do with these projects is to love several birds with one heart," he says. "And also to provide good pieces for the consumer."

Yalcin loves his carpets. They are the cousins of the weavings of his childhood. When he was a boy in Turkey, he says, summer caravans passed his home. "They were moving up to the mountains as the heat approached," he says. "Saddlebags thrown over camels and donkeys. You could walk into someone's tent and see there the beautiful rugs thrown on the floor."

Though Yalcin came to this country for an education, and eventually earned a doctorate from Harvard, he was drawn back to the carpets he remembered from his boyhood. It helped, also, that there was a market for carpets when there was not always a market for a Ph.D. in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies.

He takes out a carpet in a pattern of trees, woven in Pakistan in colors of celery and green pepper, pale carrot and cayenne. Then a square Buddhist prayer rug from Tibet, a white lotus at its center. He walks across each to get to the next.

Yalcin loves the way carpets woven by Tibetans in India and by Afghanis in Pakistan or Iranians 100 years ago can live side by side. Piled together by the hundreds, their natural colors keep them from clashing. "Each carpet has a character," he says. "They are like people, but, unlike people, they blend in. They respect each other's character and personality."

"As people we always look for the differences in each other, but we should also focus on the similarities. We'd be amazed how much more similarities we have than differences."

He pulls out rug after rug. "People's souls, the light of their eyes get into these when they're weaving them."

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. | 311-315 7th Street | Washington, DC 20003 | p: 202.543.1705 | e:
Store Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm