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Old November 20th, 2018, 11:59 AM   #4
Pierre Galafassi
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 87

Hi all,

Neil Moran’s recent book (1) about a barely sixteen year old Rudyard Kipling, starting his career as an assistant redactor in British india and covering the great international crisis of 1884-1885 opposing UK and Russia at the northern Afghanistan frontier, is very interesting indeed, well worth buying and reading not only by Kipling’s fans, dilettante historians and ethnologists, but also by ruggies.

Mr Moran cannot hide that he is very interested in rugs too and obviously enjoys reporting informations taken from letters of «*carpet knaves» members of the British ABC (Border Commission in charge of agreeing and implementing the new frontier with its Russian counterpart).
There are several good illustrations in Moran’s book, mostly drawings by William Simpson, the official artist of the Commission. Two drawings feature yurts with Ensi.

Here my pick of interesting quotes:

Page 32: ABC officer E. Durand, December 1884, at Pendj deh:
«…we halted on the third (aoul) and visited the kibitkas of Pendj deh, buying the carpets that closed the doors. They are hand-made (sic) and their colors are quiet and agreeable. The old and young ladies came out to see us and the men bargained……A good door carpet was worth…say 2 to 10 £….»

Page 34: ABC officer Th. Holdich:
«…We went to Pendj deh and made friends amongst the weather-beaten Turkmans of the Sarik fraternity who gave us good welcome and were not above taking our rubles in exchange for their inimitable carpets and saddle bags and silver mounted harness. I have seen many carpets since, but I still think that those of the Saryks of Pendj deh are unmatched. They have backs like boards; stitches infinite in number and minuteness; they are soft, but firm in pile, and harmonious (though a trifle monotonous ) in color. Some of the best of these Saryks rugs were found hanging across the doors of the kibitkas….. Between wood-smoke and the tanning effects of wind and weather, many of the door-rugs acquire a tone, which is not to be matched by any other artificial process; and we took them eagerly whenever we could persuade the fierce, wrinkled old Turkmen women to part with them…»

Page 35: Unnamed ABC officer, at Pendj deh:
«…Everyone here has been busy, and I regret to have to report that the officers without an exception, have by their conduct during the last day or so, rendered themselves liable to be called «*carpet knaves*» . The turkoman young ladies have a deft way of working a peculiarly fine kind of carpet and some of the finest of these serve as doors for the kibitkas; they are hung up like a curtain. Our winter quarters are to be kibitkas and everyone wants a carpet or two, and «a door» as well. Judging by some purchases, it looks as if some of our party are going to have very large kibitkas, a kibitka say, with half a dozen doors….»
«...At first new carpets were brought for sales, but someone brought an old one beautifully toned down from the time it had hung on a door. This was bought at high figures; and as soon as the value of old doors was discovered there was a rush on the kibitkas, and every ragged old article was brought to the market…»

Page 40: Unnamed ABC officer at Bala Murgab, down river from Pendj deh, January 1885:
«…The colours (of local rugs) are also very good, that is in the older ones, for aniline dyes have found their ways even into Central Asia, and many of the colours now in the carpets are from that source…»

FIG 1 William Simpson. Pendj deh . «The khan’s kibitka»

Page 42: Dr Owen’s description of carpet weaving teaching:
«…The mother of the family, or the grandmother , as the case may be, acts as the schoolmistress, and teaches the young girls what colors to place on the loom before them; each working member having a pile of colored wools ready at hand. It is the mistress who reads the number of stitches, and by old practice knows exactly how and where the wools should be placed. The workers themselves cut the pile the proper length; and the fact that one rarely if ever comes across an uneven pile, shows how wonderfully accurate they become….»

Eight months after the humiliating Pendj deh defeat (30.03.1885) of the Afghan army against the Russian army and its brand new allies, the Yolatan Saryks and the Merv Tekkes, and the hasty retreat of the British Border Commission, the Russian and British delegations resumed talks and started drawing the new frontier between Afghanistan and the Russian Turkestan.
During this long and tedious process, the British ABC, moving eastward, came into contact with other Turkmen tribes, in particular with Ersari- and Tekke tribesmen and the «carpet knaves» resumed their frenetical activities too.

Moran quotes Arthur Yates opinion about the merits of these tribes rugs and complains about the bad consequences of ABC members’ rug purchases on the newborn carpet market.

Page 89: Arthur C. Yates:
«…. Like the Tekkes and Sariks, the Ersaris are great manufacturer of carpeting; but to my mind the articles they turn out are decidedly inferior to those produced by the two former. Both for taste in color and soft velvetiness of texture, the Sariks, I think, easily bear away the palm. The Tekke coloring is too vivid; but it must be admitted that the texture of their best productions is wonderfully close and beautifully soft. They seem however, to produce a large quantity of inferior article; and this may be attributed to the fact that the Russian annexation of Merv has opened the markets of Europe to the Tekke industries.
Almost every carpet from a Saryk loom that I have seen has been good to its kind.
In the meantime the Commission is making very creditable progress towards spoiling the markets. I believe I am not exaggerating if I state that for the purchase of horses, carpets and jewelry not less the Rs 10 000 have flowed from the pockets of the Commission into the coffers of the Sariks of Pendj deh….»

Neil K. Moran. Kipling and Afghanistan. A study of the young author as journalist writing.

Best regards
Pierre Galafassi is offline   Reply With Quote