100 carpet pieces to be displayed during 10-day exhibition in Mumbai

Sep 26, 2016, 08:55 IST | Krutika Behrawala

A collector from Bengaluru flies down with over 100 ethnic tribal carpets to show you how nomads in Caucasian and Persian villages would weave them

Luri and Tulu lazing on Danny Mehra’s carpet collectionLuri and Tulu lazing on Danny Mehra’s carpet collection

When Danny Mehra says, “I don’t lock them because they get lonely,” you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s talking about a pet animal. Instead, the 57-year-old retired gentleman is sharing his love for carpets over telephone lines from Bengaluru. He calls them spontaneous, naïve and has even christened each of over a few 100 pieces that he owns. In fact, his pet dogs are also named after carpets — Luri, after a weave in Southern Iran and Tulu from central Iraq.

Danny Mehra with wife Renuka in Turkey
Danny Mehra with wife Renuka in Turkey

Later this week, Mehra will debut 103 pieces from his collection at a 10-day solo exhibition titled, Carpet Stories, presented by Cymroza Art Gallery. “The exhibits cover a range of weavings from the 19th to early 20th century. These include works by ethnic groups like the Qashqai, Luri, Bakhtiari, Afshar, Arab, Turkic, Baluch, Turkmen and Christian tribes,” informs Mehra.

Bombed by carpets
UP-born Mehra worked in USA for over 30 years as a management professional before settling down in Bengaluru two years back. Mehra’s love for carpets began in 1983. “At our wedding, my mother-in-law gifted us two Turkish tribal carpets. Every time I saw them, I’d spot something new. Over time, I started collecting more and now, there’s enough to cover a football field,” laughs Mehra, who has sourced the pieces from collectors and auctions.

Famous five
Mehra collects tribal carpets from five regions — the Caucasian mountains, Persia, Anatolian villages, Central Asian republics and Kurdish enclaves. “These carpets don’t have a defined pattern. Women would weave them as pastime between household chores. As most tribes were nomads, they used makeshift weaving looms. Today, the weaving traditions are extinct, and hence, it’s difficult to source such carpets,” he says.

Woollen wonders
A majority of the carpets in the collection are made from wool, considering the nomadic groups had easy access to sheep as part of their life-stock. Initially, they acted as strictly utilitarian products, either insulating the floor or as curtains. Over time, the tribes began to weave them as bags and beautiful works of art to support sacred prayer rituals, or include in a bride’s trousseau.

Replete with iconography of flowers, plants, birds, animals and mythical objects, the carpets are filled with colours from natural sources like flowers, roots, tree bark, and even insects. Mehra hand-washes piece he acquires. While the oldest carpet in his collection dates back to late 18th century, the largest one is 7x11 feet. On display will be carpets with an average size of 6x9 feet.

Did you know?
The yellow carpets from the Konya region and Tulu long-piled carpets from central Anatolia are particularly sought-after

From: September 29 to October 9, 10 am to 8 pm
At: Cymroza Art Gallery, Bhulabhai Desai Road.
Call: 23671983

Know your carpets

Caucasus: Located on the western edge of Asia, between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains house regions like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Dagestan. Weaving tribes included Azeri Turks, Kurds and Armenian Christians, and their specialties were piled carpets and flat-weaves. The most prolific weaving groups lived across the Karabagh (Black Garden) area.

Persia (Iran): Here, the carpets were largely produced by the Qashqai, Luri, Afshar, Bakhtiari, Baluch and Khamseh tribes, along with Shahsavan group. Nomadic tribes from the Zagros Mountains area of southwest Iran wove rustic Gabbeh (Farsi: unclipped) carpets, which are often compared to the modern Bauhaus school of design from Germany. Persian Luri carpets known as Pardeh were popular too (in pic).

Central Asia: The area features weaving groups from the Turkoman tribes, Khazaks, Uzbeks and other ethnic groups including Tajiks and Arabs. More rare weavings from the area include pile carpets woven by the Karakalpak Turkoman-Mongol tribe inhabiting the Oxus delta, and Julkhyrs (bear skin) long-pile carpets woven by Arab tribes inhabiting regions in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Kurdish enclaves: Though it doesn’t have recognised political borders currently, Kurdistan is the ancient homeland of Kurdish. It occupies areas of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. Prominent weaving groups include the Kolyai, Jaff, Sanjabi, Herki and Shikak Kurds. Their tribal products are often distinguished by bold designs and bright colours.

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