|A Karabakk Azerbaijani rug
woven in the village of Shusha.
Photo by Tabib Huseynov
We’ve written here in the past about textile traditions that have been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The list includes Korean ramie weaving, Indonesian batik, and Beduin Al Sadu, and in today’s BeWeave It we’re going to focus on the tradition of Azerbaijani rug weaving.
Based upon artifacts found during archaeological excavations, we know that rug weaving was done in the Caucasus region of Eurasia as far back as the fourth millennium BC. In the early years, carpets were probably simply made and served a mostly functional purpose. But through the centuries, the weaving became more sophisticated and the carpets became highly valued to the point where master weavers were lauded in the writing of famous poets.
The rugs are traditionally woven by Azerbaijani women, and the traditions of weaving are passed down through the families. The carpets are used for decoration, as furniture, and for ceremonies and rituals. For funerals, rugs are believed to open the gates of paradise and to keep the soul safe in the afterlife. In the village of Pashaly-Udulu seven sheep are clipped for these rugs, one for each of the seven celestial gates. Red represents fertility, abundance, and “life-giving beginning.” Red carpets are an integral part of traditional weddings as they are hung up as curtains to protect the bride from the evil eye.
Fortunately, the government of Azerbaijan recognized the importance of the country's weaving heritage and, in 1967, the world's first specialized carpet museum, the State Museum of Azerbaijan Carpet and Applied Art, was opened in Baku, Azerbaijan. The museum not only has exhibitions of carpets new and old, but also hosts lectures and classes on carpet weaving as well.