Gajari flatwoven carpets and textiles

Category: General

By Dr. Elmira Gyul.

Among the variety of Central Asian carpets the manufacture of the flatwoven Gajari (Ghajaree, Ghudjeri, Ghujeri) are characteristic for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.

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Gajari, Afghanistan, late 19th Century, with rows of meander (water symbol), W-shaped and horn-shaped kochkor muyiz motives. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

These carpets are woven on a narrow-beamed loom in long small strips (up to 40cm) and sewed together.

The structure of these carpets – in weaving technology – is known as “float-weave” or “warp-float weave” with the patterns only on one side and loose warps on the back.

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Gajari, Afghanistan, Late 19th Century – first quarter of 20th Century, with rows of meander (water symbol) and diamond-shaped medallions. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

A similar technique of weaving is known in Transcaucasia, Iran and Turkey; and the Azerbaijan variant – Jajim – is often woven with raw silk, and also with wool and cotton yarn.

Not only carpets are woven using the Gajari technique, but also horse-cloths, tent bands, and in Transcaucasia – covers for cushions, bags, coverlets, prayer rugs and so on.

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Tent band, Afghanistan, late 19th Century, with different protective signs. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

Connoisseurs love the Gajari carpets and textiles for their reserved colors, graphic décor, ascetic forms and rhythms. The general décor of Gajari consists of the alternation of the ornamented and not ornamented strips.

Despite seeming geometrical ornamented, there is a huge hidden reportoire of images connected with the real world f.ex. cosmogonic signs and fertility symbols: chains of rhombes, triangles, squares and rectangles, zigzags, cogged-shaped and step-shaped motives, stars, water symbols – S motives and meanders, and V and W signs.

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Gajari, Uzbekistan, first quarter of 20th Century, with rows of step-shaped diamonds and triangles, classical symbols of fertility. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

A number of zoomorphic and other motives include: horn-shaped (horns of a ram, a sign of male’s force), dog tails (protection signs), yurta frames, earrings, amulets, crests, knife edges and so on.

For a majority of these elements analogs can be found on ceramics from the neolith epoch, and we can assert that the Gajari textiles have kept an early art tradition.

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Gajari, Uzbekistan, Late 19th Century – first quarter of 20th Century, with horn-shaped meander, 8 point stars and tarak motives. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

The repertoire of motives are connected to nomadic art where cosmogony signs and totem symbols played a leading role. This testifies a genetic relation between the Gajari decor and the steppe peoples art. As a whole, the decor has a symbolical protective value. Multiple repetitions of identical elements strengthen their protective function.

The quality of a Gajari textile depends first of all on the selection of colors, the density of weaving and the divisibility of the pattern: the smaller a pattern – the better work.

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Gajari, Afghanistan, late 19th Century, with chains of stylized jewellery motives. Photo courtesy Ali Istalifi

The wide circulation of the Gajari type in art of many people, whose historical past have been connected with mobile cattle breeding, initiates speculations of their genesis. A hyphotesis could be a connection to the Qajar tribe, which had Central Asian origin, and this could be the subject for further investigations.

In today’s Uzbekistan Gajari carpets are still made by Kungrads of Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya, however aniline dyes and the simplified drawings negatively affects the quality of the carpets.

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Modern Gajari, Uzbekistan (Boysun area), 2 half of 20th Century, with inscriptions of names: Makhzuna, Ibroim, Isroil, Isuf, Tulkin, Khasan, Khusan

The author expresses gratitude to Ali Istalifi, The Jindhag Foundation,  for consultations and the photos presented in this online publication.

Dr. Elmira Gyul, Fine Arts Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan

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