TAHER ASAD BAKHTIARI
THE MAKING OF A HANDWOVEN RUG
Taher Asad-Bakhtiari (1982- ) was born in Tehran and descends from members of Iran’s semi-nomadic Bakhtiari tribe. Inspired by his heritage, Asad-Bakhtiari launched the Tribal Weave Project, his attempt to revive a disappearing cultural craft, working with artisans to reinvent the ancient weaving techniques.
Produced exclusively for Side Gallery, this sixteen square-meter rug, shown in the video was woven in Afghanistan by semi-settled nomads, using 100% natural merino wool. The rug required five months to produce, and the designer has innovatively combined several different weaving techniques: Gabbeh, kilim and warp-exposed.
The Gabbeh is known as gava in Kurdish and Luri and is also called khersak (خرسک) in Bakhtiari, literally meaning a "bear's cub". Traditionally a sleeping rug, a gabbeh is a hand-woven pile rug of coarse quality
characterised by abstract designs with fields of colours and geometric motifs. Kilim refers to a textile with a flat and thin surface, they are created by overlapping vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) threads, rather than by knotting. Kilim rugs use simple and bold geometric designs, with slits that highlight the shapes effects. Warp-exposed takes the fundamentals of the historical techniques, stripping them down to reveal the lace-like texture of the underlying warp. Asad-Bakhtiari Plays with textures and pile heights, enhancing the traditional geometric shapes of a kilim, and emphasising the design but also the uniqueness of the medium.
"My tenuous yet deep-rooted connection with the Bakhtiari tribe motivates me to support this dying craft, and I draw inspiration from their unique artistic legacy. Weaving was a true raw expressions of a tribe's outlook on beauty. With the demise of tribal life, that type of art has died. What has not is the technique, and I believe the survival of this craft goes through reinvention.”
Nomadic tribes in Afghanistan still weave carpets by hand for their own use, using patterns thousands of years old memorised and passed down from mother to daughter. They shear the sheep, collect the herbs used in dyes, and weave and colour the carpets in a process that takes months. Stimulated by this new approach, the weavers themselves have come to re-think their craft and re-engage with it. Thus often, the weaver´s own input will figure discretely in the carpet - whether in a smart approach to a weaving dilemma or the personal handling of a particular design.
Taher Asad-Bakhtiari is a self-taught artist whose practice revolves around objects, textiles, and experiences. Born in 1982, Asad-Bakhtiari studied in Canada and Switzerland, currently residing in Dubai and New York. His work explores his heritage, including the kilim weavings of the Bakhtiari tribe and the oil barrels referencing his status as a part of the generation of "oil babies."
Asad-Bakhtiari's "The Tribal Weave Project" is his attempt to revive and reinvent a disappearing cultural craft, where Asad-Bakhtiari states, "My tenuous yet deep-rooted connection with the Bakhtiari tribe motivates me to support this dying craft, and I draw inspiration from their unique artistic legacy. Kilims were true raw expressions of a tribe's outlook on beauty. With the demise of tribal life, that type of art has died. What has not is the technique, and I believe the survival of this craft goes through reinvention."
For his kilim and the gabbeh pieces, Asad-Bakhtiari takes the fundamentals of the historical technique, stripping them down to reveal the lace-like texture of the underlying warp and enhancing the traditional geometric shapes emphasizing the design but also the uniqueness of the medium.