Carpet hunters threat dying in quest of Afghanistan’s final historic rugs

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Kabul (AFP)

In his quest to seek out the final historic rugs of Afghanistan, Shari Allahqul weathered blizzards within the highlands, was overwhelmed by armed thieves, and prevented preventing with insurgents.

Typically on horseback with donkeys in tow, he travels deep into the jagged badlands of northern Afghanistan in quest of hand-woven rugs made by the nation’s nomadic tribes.

“The roads are harmful, filled with wolves and filled with enemies. Now we have to spend nights within the forests or within the desert,” mentioned Allahqul, who travels with a sturdy Afghan Sheepdog to maintain it protected whereas he’s sleeping.

Carpet hunters can spend weeks, and even months, traversing villages like sleuths alongside historic trailer trails, providing money or barter with trendy items to amass a various choice of cash they will discover. they will later promote in carpet bazaars or to collectors.

However journey is usually fraught with peril.

Allahqul, who started searching rugs as a toddler, mentioned he was as soon as pummeled with a Kalashnikov by bandits who walked previous his rigorously collected rugs searching for cash, rejecting his wares as getting old rubbish.

“They mentioned, ‘These rugs are outdated rugs and throw them away,’ he remembers with a smile, whereas admitting it took over two weeks to recover from the beating.

The risks are nothing new to the job, in line with Allahqul, who remembers his father telling the story of a buddy who was eaten alive by wolves after being caught in a snowstorm on an expedition. carpet many years in the past.

“The one factor they discovered have been his sneakers and the rugs,” he shrugged.

– Handicrafts antiques

Afghanistan’s carpet belt stretches west like a boomerang from northern Kunduz province, alongside the Uzbek and Turkmenistan borders, and throughout the border with Iran.

It’s dwelling to a handful of nomadic teams which have specialised in carpet making for hundreds of years.

Door-to-door in rural villages with recommendation from native contacts, Allahqul negotiates what have been as soon as dowry items – rugs handcrafted by the household of a bride to adorn her new dwelling.

Essentially the most sought-after rugs are sometimes many years outdated, adorned with tribal patterns, woven from hand-spun wool, and made with dyes concocted from native substances similar to roots, herbs and flower petals. .

As soon as happy with their bounty, carpet hunters return dwelling the place the carpets are washed after which dried on the rooftops for months, permitting the solar to deliver out the colours.

The rugs are then transported to cities like Kabul, the place delicate repairs are made earlier than being bought.

“Repairing or promoting a carpet is like elevating a toddler. It takes a variety of work, ”Allahqul mentioned.

A single carpet can take six months to 2 years to fabricate and may fetch hundreds of {dollars} within the worldwide market if it wins a spot within the showrooms of main carpet sellers.

Abdul Wahab, certainly one of Kabul’s largest tribal carpet collectors, mentioned his stock was amassed piece by piece from a community of carpet hunters like Allahqul.

“We’re 99.9% counting on these folks,” he defined.

“I like my rugs. I purchase them one after the other, not simply to promote them.”

– Forgeries and imitations –

However many years of battle, displacement and urbanization have eternally modified commerce.

Nomadic tribes have largely settled down and deserted their household looms, in line with carpet sellers in Kabul’s carpet bazaars.

Imported wool and artificial dyes, together with the proliferation of buying and selling workshops within the area, have flooded the market with cheaper rugs that may be mass produced.

“It is a very unhappy factor,” Wahab sighed. “Wool from Belgium, dyes from one other nation … Nothing is Afghan in any respect.”

Low cost knockoffs and knockoffs are rife, he complained, making it all of the tougher to promote a costlier vintage to a much less subtle shopper.

Unscrupulous carpet retailers are additionally identified to craft the light patina of antiques, counting on chemical remedies, washing tea, and generally new carpets with vehicles to offer them a worn veneer – and a value extra Pupil.

Skilled rug sellers say that solely shut inspection with a seasoned eye and a fragile contact can reveal a rug’s true worth.

“The dyes, the design, the situation, the age, the form – all the things collectively offers worth to the piece,” mentioned Wahid Abdullah, proprietor of Herat Carpets in Kabul.

– ‘Every part is artwork’ –

Some rugs might not even be high-quality, Abdullah mentioned, however the uniqueness of the design or another hanging characteristic – even an deliberately woven flaw in a sample – can set them other than trendy mass-produced rugs.

“Every part is artwork. It is arduous to clarify,” he added.

However rug hunters portray the rug hearts of Afghanistan are complaining that vintage items are actually more durable and more durable to seek out.

The roads have additionally change into extra harmful with the withdrawal of worldwide troops from Afghanistan as lawlessness and Taliban affect grows.

“Manufacturing facility-made rugs have broken the hand-woven rug trade,” Zalmai Ahmadi, a rug hunter from Herat, western Afghanistan, advised AFP.

“The journeys are very, very troublesome and we meet the Taliban, authorities forces and thieves – both they ask for cash otherwise you get killed.”

In two current outings, Ahmadi was solely capable of seize a couple of rugs, in comparison with dozens of items he may have simply collected a couple of years in the past.

“No matter we needed we may get,” he mentioned. “However now we will not discover them.”



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