Throughout history, people have insulated themselves against the climatic variations of their homelands by weaving cloth for clothing, rugs and all manner of covers and trappings. Textile production has evolved over thousands of years from the simplest methods of finger-plaiting and the interlacing of animal and vegetable fibers to the complexities of computer-controlled power-loom weaving, and with it textiles themselves have developed from the most basic items of utility into the most elaborate artifacts of prestige, paraded purely for their decorative beauty or as symbols of group identity. The flatweaving of floor-rugs and trappings is practiced in many communities spread over the globe.
In North America the Navajo weave rugs and blankets, while in Mexico the blankets and covers known as sarapes are made, and the weavers of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are well known for their woolen rugs. Europe has its own long-established rug-weaving tradition; collectors of textiles will be familiar, for example, with the flatweaves of Scandinavia, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Greece, but may be surprised to learn that many of the traditional European flatweaving practices in fact take their origin from the nomadic groups and mountain village people of Anatolia, North Africa, Central and Western Asia. Migrating over the steppes and the mountains, leading their goats and sheep, or ekeing out an existence in the remote fastness of a desert range, the nomads and villagers have successfully combined the qualities of utility, portability and ornamentation within their textiles. Their flatwoven blankets, rugs and trappings have provided protection against the fierce heat, the bitter cold, the snow and the rain. Tents are kept dry and secure, and the earth floor is spread with rugs and bedding blankets of sheep's wool. From such modest needs has developed a flatweaving culture without equal.
The fruits of these simple nomadic and village looms we now know as kilims. Almost all the weavers of the many and varied tribes and groups featured in this book are united by their Muslim faith. Although the flatweaving of rugs pre-dates the coming of Mohammed, the Islamic religion has given nomads and villagers a system of existence that, far from suppressing the believers' artistry, has unleashed a flood of creativity in their arts and crafts. Islam is an all-embracing religion which has amalgamated well with the lifestyles and traditions of the people and the skills and practices of their pre-Muslim past.
The sophistication of the decorative arts of the Muslim world is reflected in the colors and the patterns of the kilims reproduced in the pages that follow. Yet most of the textiles illustrated here are not commissioned or even inspired by the wealthy court hierarchy for which the Ottoman, Safavid and Mameluke empires are known. On the contrary, they represent the work and wealth of communities living humble lives in harsh conditions.
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