Tribal Identities

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					                                                     The recent exhibition at Minasian's in Evanston was the first devoted solely to
                                                     Turkmen rugs and weavings ever presented in the Chicago area. Joseph W. Fell,
                                                     who collected many of the pieces in the first place, offers an interested overview.

Tribal Identities                                    older than the general population of rug           to note, are from my collection. Two which
Turkoman Rugs from Central Asia                      collectors has its compensations.                  are, however, are worth mentioning: an early
Minasian Rug Co., Chicago Avenue,                        The Minasian exhibit included some sixty       maincarpetwith tauk     nuskagills,anda well
Evanston, Illinois, USA                              pieces. all but a handful from private collec-     known 18thcentury mixed-gill carpet, last
10 December 1999 - 27 February 2000                  tions. and a majority from my own holdings.        shown in the 1980TM exhibition. It is rather
                                                     which I had the pleasure of seeing together for    primitive in its handling of design, indicative I
Writing about an exhibition which included           the first time. The scope was sufficient to        believe of a relatively early date, since it must
some forty of my own rugs and trappings is a         enlighten the amateur as to the variety of         have taken time for Yomut weavers to trans-
bit like being given the opportunity to write        items contained in the Turkmen universe.           form a classicalleaf and palmette motif into a
your own obituary. In short, it's too good to        while there were enough interesting pieces for     conventional tribal giil. I am reluctant. to
                                                     the connoisseur to make a visit worthwhile.        consider the alternative explanation - that
passup. In defence of this act of hubris I would
just say that that a lifetime of reading and             The principal tribes were reasonably well      the weaver was either inexperienced or
writing reviews has reinforced my suspicion          represented. but Yomut and Ersari works were       incompetent. Besides,who am I to argue
that most reviewers are no more objective            especially prominent. in part due to the tastes    with Jon Thompson and Louise Mackie, who
than I am likely to be on this occasion.             of the collectors. but also to the local lack of            it
                                                                                                        assigned to the 18thcentury long before I did.
     In the early days,when most of my Turkmen       early Salor and Saryk pieces. I did once own a         Other Yomut pieces included an attractive
pieces were acquired, I was an opportunistic         fine Salor torba. but in a moment of financial     Ilatwoven tent band, a money-bag face (1) in a
collector; I bought whatever presented itself if     need I sold it to a well-known collector who I     tree design with nice colour, two additional
I thought it was good, and if it was attainable      knew would give it a good home.                                                     two
                                                                                                        main carpets (dyrnakand/!ePSt), flatweaves
in light of my finances.To a great extent, fate          From the extensive Yomut repertoire. in        (one in a pile design), an okbash ofintermed-
was in the driver's seat.Though Turkmens             addition to four respectably old asmalyksand       iate date, and two early torbas, one of which,
were my collectable of choice, there was no          half a dozen chuvals. at least two of which        from a Milwaukee collection, deservedmore
overriding purpose to the acquisition proc~s,        arguably date to the early 19th century. there     than a casualglance. Apparently the work of
so I am unable to claim full credit for the final'   was an unusually attractive mid-19th century
                                                                                                        Minasian'sChicago  Avenuegallerywith an arrayof
result. Rugs,at the time and place I did most                                 gills
                                                     maincarpetwith kepse on a chestnut                 mainlyYomuttribal weavings,but includinga rare
of my collecting, were relatively plentiful and      ground. and an appealing ensi with a rare          Tekkebird asmalykhigh on the right-handwall and
inexpensive - another reminder that being            green border. Neither of the latter. I'm sorry     a grand Beshir'palace' carpeton the floor.
   one of those hard-to-pinpoint Yomut tribal         Above left: Ersari Turkmen prayer rug,                       Other notable early Tekke pieces included
   offshoots, it has large-scalearchetypal gills on   first half 19th century. 0.99 x 1.93m<3'3"x 6'0").     a main carpet on a warm madder-red ground;
  a warm brown ground and a border of small           Published:Renaissance      Society,Islamic Prayer
                                                                                                             a torba with straight-sided gills; an unusual
                                                      Rugs, Chicago 1973; Jones & Boucher, The Ersari
  squarescontaining single flowers: rather like       and their Weavings, Washington     1975.               small rug with so called chuval gills, end panels
  an Arabachi, except for the symmetric knot and                                                             with spindly flowers and a plum-coloured field;
  several other structural characteristics.                        Tekke,Ersari and Chodor weavings.
                                                      Above:Selected                                         two chuvalswith horizontal stripes, one all pile
       Ersari pieces included a long, narrow                                                                 and the other pile stripes on a kilim ground.
                                                      Below:Yomut Turkmen multi-gill main carpet,
   'head and shoulders' prayer rug of the first                                                              And from the latter part of the 19thcentury, a
                                                      18th century. 1.57 x 2.54m (s'2" x 8'4"). Published:
  half of the 19th century, with ascending            Mackie & Thompson, Turkmen, Washington 1980;           main carpet with very well-drawn turreted Salor
  columns of flowers, an excellent example of         Sienknecht, 'A Turkic Heritage', HAll 47,1989.         gills and archetypal minor gills. Perhapsthe
  the type; an appealing small rug with a                                                                      most interesting thing about this piece was
  pattern of squaresenclosing tulips; tWo                                                                     its handle. which is as soft and flexible as a
  large ensis, the more attractive of which has                                                              pashmina shawl. Lessdesirable is the presence
  a rosy ground and a border which makes                                                                     of what are undoubtedly synthetic dyes.
  extensive use of a light green, a colour for                                                                    The Saryk were represented by an early
 which I have weakness,and which in my                                                                       chuval with glossy wool and cotton details;
 collecting days often compelled me to make                                                                  a small rug with archetypal gills from around
 an involuntary move for my chequebook;                                                                      1900; and a main carpet of approximately
 a minakhanidesign chuval of respectable                                                                      the samedate with rather subduedcolours but
 agewith magentasilk details; an unusual                                                                      in excellent condition.
 asmalyk with a small apex on a rectangular                                                                        The floor of the exhibition gallery displayed
 base,a veteran of several previous exhibits;                                                                  two room-size carpets. an exceptional large
 a large chuval with horizontal stripes and                                                                    Beshir (Bukhara?).with attractive colour and
 long silky pile in unusually good condition,                                                                                                       gill
                                                                                                               a wide main border, and an ertmen Chodor
 the result of some fifty years spent in a                                                                     which was never meant for a nomad's tent.
 storagewarehouse; and a rather thin but                                                                           This show was the fourth in a series
striking chuval with a modified ikat motif,                                                                     presented over the past two years by the
a refined senseof spaceand a palette that                                                                       Evanston rug gallery. and more are planned
includes, surprise, a wonderful dark green,                                                                     as and when worthy themes are developed.
the latter belonging to one of Chicago's                                                                        While the main purposeIS to cultivate a
longtime Turkmen collectors.                                                                                    broader public for antique rugs.considerable
      As is usual for this tribe, the Tekke                                                                     attention has been given to the interests of
pieces were fairly conventional. The                                                                            serious collectors.
earliest example on view was a bird asmalyk,                                                                        This is especially true of the Turkmen
the serendipitous antique store discovery                                                                        show. which by its very subject matter was
of a local collector. Unfottunately rather                                                                       collector-oriented. If it also broadened the
worn and tattered, its finenessof weave,                                                                        horizons of a few individuals who were
ageand character impress nonetheless. It's                                                                      under the impression that the Turkmen rug
one of those pieces you're lucky to have                                                                         was invented by royal weavers in Bukhara,
regardlessof condition.                                                                                          so much the better.

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