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Truly magical carpets: Azerbaijani tradition on show in Brussels

It’s an ancient craft that’s still in demand in the modern world. Azerbaijan’s carpet weavers create traditional designs with a contemporary touch. Some of the finest examples are currently on show at the Foundation Frison Horta in Brussels, writes Nick Powell.

Azerbaijan’s Ambassador, Vaqif Sadiqov, said it was a particular pleasure to see such an important part of his country’s cultural heritage on display in a building designed by Victor Horta, one of the founders of the art nouveau movement. The Foundation’s director-general, Nupur Tron, said it was all the more important to develop cultural contact when the world is so divided and to involve the next generation in carrying it forward.

The carpets on display are part of living history that is still evolving. “The tradition shall go always with innovations”, explained Emin Mammadov, from Azerkhalcha, the carpet-weaving enterprise which organised the exhibition. Its mission is to make sure that the folk art does not simply become history, the non-figurative designs are in a sense always modern.

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Political Editor Nick Powel takes lessons at carpet weaving

When new carpets are commissioned, the clients and their interior designers are involved in choosing the pattern and deciding how to make the design unique, perhaps by adapting the colour scheme. The price can be up to €700 per square metre for wool, three times as much for silk. That square metre will take the weaver a month to create in wool, twice as long in silk. She can also expect to be paid more for working in silk.

Women are 85% of the workforce and the recognition of their skill is an important driver of empowerment and independence. It’s certainly not an easy job, when I was invited to have a go, a tied a single knot under expert guidance and had a glimpse of the talent and dedication required.

At the opening, music played on traditional Azeri instruments added to the sense of transportation to another place. The exhibition is entitled ‘Magic Flying Carpets’ and it seemed almost literally true. It has already been to Strasbourg, Vienna, Berlin and Liepāja in Latvia. It’s on show in Brussels until 6th December.

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