Carpet hunters danger demise in the hunt for Afghanistan’s final historic rugs

Kabul (AFP)

In his quest to seek out the final historic rugs of Afghanistan, Shari Allahqul weathered blizzards within the excessive international locations, was overwhelmed by armed thieves and bypassed combating with insurgents.

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

“The roads are harmful, stuffed with wolves and stuffed with enemies. Now we have to spend nights within the forests or within the desert,” stated 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 fashionable items to amass a various choice of cash they’ll discover. they’ll later promote in carpet bazaars or to collectors.

However journey is commonly fraught with peril.

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

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

The hazards are nothing new to the job, in accordance with Allahqul, who remembers his father telling the story of a pal 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 had been his sneakers and his 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 house 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 had been as soon as dowry items – rugs handcrafted by the household of a bride to adorn her new house.

Probably the most sought-after rugs are sometimes many years previous, adorned with tribal patterns, woven from hand-spun wool, and made with dyes concocted from native elements akin to roots, herbs and flower petals. .

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

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

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

A single carpet can take six months to 2 years to fabricate and might fetch 1000’s of {dollars} within the worldwide market if it wins a spot within the showrooms of main carpet sellers.

Abdul Wahab, one among Kabul’s greatest tribal carpet collectors, stated 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 endlessly modified commerce.

Nomadic tribes have largely settled down and deserted their household looms, in accordance 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 dearer vintage to a much less subtle shopper.

Unscrupulous carpet retailers are additionally recognized to craft the light patina of antiques, counting on chemical therapies, washing tea, and generally new carpets with automobiles to provide them a worn veneer – and a value extra Scholar.

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 – the whole lot collectively offers worth to the piece,” stated Wahid Abdullah, proprietor of Herat Carpets in Kabul.

– ‘All the pieces is artwork’ –

Some rugs might not even be top of the range, Abdullah stated, however the uniqueness of the design or another hanging function – even an deliberately woven flaw in a sample – can set them other than fashionable mass-produced rugs.

“All the pieces is artwork. It is exhausting to clarify,” he added.

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

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

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

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

On two current outings, Ahmadi was solely in a position to 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 stated. “However now we will not discover them.”

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