This year’s Belutschtreffen took place in Frank Diehr’s homecourt, Wuppertal und Schwelm, immediately adjacent to each other along Germany’s Wupper River. Frank and Dr. Hans Ritter organized the meeting and program.
Fittingly Frank led off the agenda with a lecture titled Birds, Other Animals, and Human Forms in Belouch Weaving. The variety of different types of birds in these weavings was astounding. (Fig. 1&2) I’ve subsequently queried a couple of collectors on the number of bird forms they were aware of and the highest answer was five. Personally I expected seven at the most. Amazingly, between Frank’s slides and various pieces brought in by participants, we encountered no less than twenty! Now that my awareness has increased I somehow suspect that several more will show up in the lexicon. With that thought barely formed, Dr. Hans Ritter, produced a book of hand drawn designs that revealed at least two more. Hans has graphed out approximately 600 Belouch designs (no mean feat, just try to draw one) that he has encountered, a monumental project when you think about it. In a subsequent conversation Dr. Ritter mentioned that careful analysis suggested to him that there are basically four families of birds and what I was noting was variations of these four. Quite naturally it occurred to me that birds in Belouch might be a fantastic focus for a collection. (Fig. 1).
Human figures were not quite as prolific and certainly did not include such a variety. For this reviewer one particular figure I choose to describe as a “Mongol cowboy”, (Fig. 3) appropriately bowlegged and wearing something akin to a sampan style hat, popped up an unexpected number of times while female figures were strangely absent (though rare, I personally know of their existence).
Quadrupeds were also shown and discussed. Conversational speculation as to their identity was lively and humorous. Lions, dogs, ibex, goats, and camels were offered up as interpretations. Of these, the camel (Fig. 4) was the one animal that seemed to achieve consensus. Perhaps it was the hump that distinguished them whereas the lack of distinction between horns and ears seemed to confuse analysis of many of the other quadrupeds.
In summation this was a very successful lecture though the term barely applies. Frank presented no personal agenda and offered no conclusions but instead encouraged audience participation and consensus. Perhaps his proximity to Bonn has unduly influenced his style and philosophy.
After the lecture a lengthy and enlightening show and tell transpired where we examined our colleagues’ examples of birds, bipeds, and quadrupeds. I have to interject here that the collections of the members are quite outstanding.
The second session featured a lecture by Karl Heinz Breuss; “Carpets and Flatweaves from Uzbekistan and Kyrghyzistan”. His lecture outline was based upon a rather well done book that he authored named “MYTHOS und MYSTIK, Uzbekische und Kirgisische Textil Kunst, Die Sammlung Breuss” published by Adil Besim, Vienna, 2011. It should be mentioned that Messrs. Besims’ production demonstrated professional excellence.
In observing Karl’s slides and listening to his presentation, this reviewer was quite impressed with his observations and astute attributions. Though the relationship between the weavings of Kirghizistan and Uzbekistan with those of the “Belouch” might seem remote to some much of the iconography presented in these weavings has the same root origins as that of the Turko-Mongol tribes of Khorassan that we call “Belouch” (not to mention those of the Turkoman). Indeed, there was even a virtual interface between some of the Central Asian Aimaq weavings with those of the same tribe in Afghanistan.
That evening we dined banquet style in a private dining room furnished by our host hotel, Neuennhof (Fig. 5), with a fantastic meal of sizeable portions. Everywhere that I dined in both Wuppertal and Schwelm (the border is at the corner of the Neuenhof parking lot), was characterized by Texas sized portions.
On Sunday the lecture was to be a presentation by the Swedish collector, Claes-Goren Swahn. Regrettably, Claes found himself in a hospital in Sweden on this day (I can report that he has since recovered) so marathon lecturer Karl Heinz Breuss was again summoned to the podium. Fortunately, Karl had visited Claes after the ICOC in Stockholm and photographed the collection himself! So the lecture went forward as scheduled. Of course Claes’ comments and perhaps more detailed images were missing but Karl kept us interested by adopting the Diehr group discussion technique so the whole thing came off rather well.
As is the custom we ended the meeting with a show and tell. (Fig. 6) On this occasion the material was increased with a couple suitcases from our gracious host, Frank Diehr. This part is always fun with much shuffling back and forth between this rug and that combined with extemporaneous group discussion and comment.
The icing on the cake for this reviewer was the ride back to the train station on the Schwebebahn, a hanging suspended monorail that follows the winding course of the River Wuppertal. This ‘hang bahn’, opened in 1901, was a marvel of its time and still is (Fig. 7).