Saturday, April 26, 2008

Woven Splendor

My friend Spanky is getting his PHD in middle eastern art, and he gave me a private tour of the new exhibit up at the New York Historical Society: Woven Splendor from Timbuktu to Tibet.

It was sponsored by the Hajji Baba club--the country's first rug collecting society---for their 75th anniversary. Hajji Baba, baby! The Hajji Baba's enforce a strict no-photos allowed policy. So I only took one.

They must have put a hex on my photo.

What a difference it makes to see an exhibit with a knowledgeable and passionate escort. Without Spanky, I would've seen a roomful of rugs.

Instead, I saw the tribes and cultures of Iran and middle Asia who made painstakingly wove these beautiful silks. One of the fishing cultures that lived and wove along the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan are now extinct.

Russia diverted the waters of the sea for irrigation, and it all dried up. Just gone. Pesticides they added dried up and blew around and gave this tribe throat cancer. Who knew? Would you believe this all happened in the last 25 years?

The Aral Sea. It dried up faster than the boats could get out.

I also learned:

1) That nomadic people are not poor.

2) That Timbuktu is in Mali, in West Africa.

3) That I still cannot be taken out in public.

Forced into places filled with old people and hushed voices, I get panic attacks. These attacks are manifested in verbal outbursts. At one point, as elderly people studied one tapestry, I spoke out above their whispers. "So this is a Persian cum rag?"

The Hajji Babas would not be impressed.

1 comment:

Mark in DE said...

Oh Jesse, this is just another thing about you to love! I, too, have occasional, inappropriate outbursts when I get nervous. I've never referred to a piece of art as a persian cum rag though.

Mark :-)