TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Summary
Author  :  Robert Torchia
Date  :  03-26-2000 on 09:43 a.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Here are a few words to sum up the most significant points that arose during our discussion of Karapinar kilims. Daniel Deschuyteneer noted that a related example of the type is illustrated in Harry Koll's Kultkelim: ausgewahlte anatolische Flachgewebe (1999), plate 14. Herr Koll informed us in person that an English translation of this very worthwhile book is now available in pamphlet from, and added some general comments on the kilims attributed to Karapinar. Thanks to Guido Imbimbo for drawing our attention to a related fragment that was illustrated Hali 30, p. 15, when it was exhibited in Vienna in the spring of 1986. Hats off to Daniel for noticing an unusual structural similarity that further strengthens the relationship between my kilim and the Vakiflar example; certainly it is reasonable to suggest that the two pieces may have been woven by the same tribe, and, to be a little more adventurous, by the same individuals. Michael Wendorf raised the old formalist issue that the medium dictates form by noting that the use of serrated or saw-toothed medallions is one of the most ubiquitous of all slit-tapestry designs. In his words, the design format is "a manifestation of structure driving design and a reflection of weavers in various places and times confronting and solving the limitations of that structure in similar and expected ways." Consequently he rejected the idea that the kilim medallions are derived from Ushak pile rugs, and rejected any interpretation of them based on the Jungian collective world consciousness theory. This led to an informative tangent devoted to the relationship between Anatolian kilims and Navaho rug designs, where the serrated medallion is a common motif. The former influenced the latter at a very late date, so this phenomenon cannot be ascribed to cultural transmission. Being professionally trained in the methodology of iconography, I cannot resist the urge to interpret the symbolic content of visual imagery. There are numerous basic kilim designs, and it is very unlikely that they signified nothing to their creators. Picking up on a point made by John Howe, Michael discerned "that part of the problem in talking about and understanding kilims and their designs is the lack of consistency or uniformity in describing them." I had variously described the devices alternately as four multilayered diamond shaped saw-toothed medallions, medallions composed of a central polygon surrounded by four large concentric layers, serrated medallions and serrated rhomboidal medallions. In order to simplify the nomenclature, we settled on the term serrated. If I had to revise this essay, I would footnote all of the various descriptions that are used in the literature and then settle on that adjective. In a similar vein, Patrick Weiler, followed by Kenneth Thompson, discussed the propriety of using of the term baklava. Kenneth stated that in modern Turkish it is a the generic word used to describe any diamond lozenge shape. Patrick advocated the idea that the serrated medallions represent the astrological phenomenon of a super nova, and I do not find that suggestion to be in the least outlandish. I objectively like to eat baklava, and the kilim reminds me, however subjectively, of a starburst. Michael opened the proverbial can of worms with his observation that I had consistently discussed the serrated medallions as being arranged side-by-side on a horizontal axis, and objected that such an approach "necessarily rotates the kilim 90 degrees from the way it was woven on the loom." True, I have always thought of my kilim as being designed to be seen on a primarily horizontal axis, like a saf. I quibbled with Michael concerning his contention that the perspective from which a weaver or artist creates need not be the primary vantage point. (For example, if a weaver follows the common Anatolian practice of making kilims in separate halves that she later plans to join together, does that mean that we ought primarily consider one half at a time?) Marla Mallett entered the discussion by citing the various ways kilims are used and seen by their nomadic creators. Evidently this is one of those issues that is open to intense debate, and unless we can obtain first hand testimony from a long deceased weaver, it is unlikely to be resolved conclusively. The fact that we can't even reach a consensus on whether kilim compositions should be seen from a primarily or vertical axis shows how little we know. Was this ever an issue for the weavers? This train of thought led to a discussion concerning the desirability and feasibility of hanging kilims horizontally, to which Marla contributed greatly. I am still hanging my kilim horizontally, although with some new reservations. These are all academic considerations, the source for much verbal fodder as we have seen. You are all familiar with the immense sense of enrichment that can be derived from a favorite weaving. Such things can very materially improve an existence that, as Hobbes said, is "nasty, brutish, and short." I sincerely hope that in looking at my kilim, along with its relatives, you have felt one-twentieth of the enjoyment I feel every day. Thanks to Steve Price for rotating these scans that fateful 90 degrees (the deed will forever live in infamy), to R. John Howe for inviting me to participate, and to each and every one of you for contributing. RWT

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