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Photo Album: Azerbaijan & Georgia, October 2017

The third HALI Tour to the Caucasus included Azerbaijan for the first time and added a new dimension to our understanding of the rugs and textile traditions of the region. The eight-day tour began on 21 October 2017, the day after the Fifth International Symposium on Azerbaijani Carpets ended in the country’s capital, Baku. The timing meant that half of our twenty guests attended both the symposium and the HALI Tour.

HALI Tour group, Karachopt

A packed schedule in Baku included a morning walking tour of Icherisheher (Old Town); a temporary exhibition organised by the passionate young collectors Fuad Jabrayilov and Ruslan Huseynov, owners of the FR Collection; special access at the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum with Director Shirin Melikova; an exclusive visit to the weaving workshops of internationally-acclaimed artist Faig Ahmed, with an indigo-dyeing demonstration by the artist himself; and a private view of the ISAC exhibition, ‘Silk Treasures’.

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On the second day, the tour travelled north to other regions of Azerbaijan, visiting weavers in the village of Chelov, whose work represents the continuation of a home-weaving tradition and reflects the widespread influence of Latif Karimov (1906-1991). Completed rugs were borrowed by admiring neighbours to act as cartoons for their next piece, demonstrating the spread of popular designs among the local community in action. A hands-on insight into Azerbaijani resist-dyed silk scarves (kalaghayi) was given at Baskal Silk Center, run by Rena Ibrahimbeyova and Jalil Tariverdiyev, who served tea in the garden accompanied by apples plucked fresh from the trees. The beautifully restored summer palace of the Sheki Khans, stunning under clear blue skies, provided a valuable context to the complex history of the region’s powerful khanates before an  rough and almost non-existent road delivered us to the Georgian border at dusk on the third day.

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In Georgia, wine flowed and the sound of polyphonic singing accompanied evening meals. The sleepy fortified town of Sighnaghi was the setting for a little relaxation before we journeyed to the capital city of Tbilisi (historic Tiflis). The route took us via Lambalo, a sub-village of Karachopt, which is one of the Azeri settlements in Georgia that has seen a renewed interest in weaving historic designs of late, thanks to the input of American expatriate Ryan Smith. His reWoven project provides naturally-dyed Iranian wool and Caucasian designs to home weavers with the skill to create quality rugs which he then tries to sell on the international market. His introduction to the extended family of weaver Terlan Mamedova and their very genuine village production (and lunch) was for many the highlight of the trip.

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The Simon Janashia National Museum of Georgia treasury delivered world-class gold work and its curator, Irina Koshoridze, treated us to a special storeroom viewing of antique carpets, Rasht embroideries and Kashmir shawls in the national collection. The following day, we met Irina again in her other guise as director of the State Museum of Folk and Applied Arts, which holds an incredibly important and attractive archive of 19th-century photographs, field drawings and paintings by researcher Jūlijs Straume that definitively place known rug types in the geographic locations they were discovered at that time. The director of the State Silk Museum, Nino Kuprava, then welcomed us into the building that once housed the Caucasian Sericulture Station, established by the Russian Empire’s Caucasian Kustar Committee as a result of the research conducted by Straume and his contemporaries.

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We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone named above, our local guides Elba and Merab, the organisers of ISAC Baku, Togrul Efendiyev, Isa Mammadov and all those at the Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture who assisted in our exploration of weaving practices past and present.

HALI Tours expect to return to this region in the future. A ‘Decorative Arts of Georgia’ programme is being developed for autumn 2018. To register your interest, email halitours@hali.com.

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