Shirin Melikova: "Azerbaijan's entire history is reflected in its carpets"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Shirin Melikova: "Azerbaijan's entire history is reflected in its carpets"

The Seven Beauties exhibition held at the All-Russian Museum of Decorative Art, which features exhibits from collections of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the State Museum of Musical Culture of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, was so popular that it was extended until February 10. Yesterday, director of the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, chairman of the ICOM National Committee of Azerbaijan, honored cultural worker, Shirin Melikova, gave lecture on history of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan at the All-Russian Museum of Decorative Art. Before her lecture, she answered some questions of Vestnik Kavkaza.

- Your museum is very popular, but media often call it differently. What's the correct name of your museum?

- Our museum was founded in 1967. At that time it was called the Museum of Carpet and Decorative Arts. Since 2014, when we moved to a new building, it's called the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

- Why did you decide to tell Moscow audience about carpet weaving art of Azerbaijan?

- We have been cooperating with the All-Russian Museum of Decorative Art for several years and have carried out several joint projects. Today our exhibits are presented displayed in this wonderful museum. Exhibition opened in November of 2018 and will run until February 10. In this exposition, we combined several types of art of Azerbaijan and showed immortal works of the greatest poet of Azerbaijan, Nizami Ganjavi. In addition, last year Azerbaijan celebrated centenary of its great composer, Qara Qaraev. We show the theme of Seven Beauties in various art forms, including in Qara Qaraev's ballet of the same name. After beginning of this exhibition, we, together with management of the museum, came to conclusion that it would be interesting to show the works of Nizami Ganjavi and Qara Qarayev. That's today I will give lecture on origins of carpet weaving. It's an excursion into history. Of course, I will talk about carpet museum, our collection, our new acquisitions, exhibits presented at this exhibition, projects that we carry out together with the Museum of Decorative Art and our plans for the near future in Moscow.

- How important is carpet weaving in the culture of Azerbaijan?

- Carpet is a symbol of Azerbaijan. Our entire story is reflected in carpets. We can trace all historical periods in compositions, in ornaments of carpets. Carpet has always been not only a part of the interior, it's an integral part of our houses, it was closely associated with life, with traditions and customs of Azerbaijani people. We say that people are born on carpets, that we spend entire life near carpets. All these traditions are still relevant today. There's no place in Azerbaijan that is not associated with carpers somehow. Carpet has always played and will play a huge role in lives of our people, reflecting spiritual, philosophical and aesthetic traditions of our people.

- Many peoples of Caucasus have their own traditions of carpet weaving. What makes Azerbaijani different compared to others?

- Caucasian carpets are a very interesting topic. Outstanding scientist, founder of the science of Azerbaijani carpet weaving, founder of the first carpet museum in the world, Latif Kerimov noted while conducted his research that 96% of the so-called "Caucasian carpets" are based on Azerbaijani carpets. According to Kerimov’s classification, carpets are divided into four main types: Ganja-Gazakh, Kuba-Shirvan, Karabakh and Tebriz. All these carpets differ in technical and artistic design. Evry settlement and village used to wove carpets. Carpets were a part of urban culture, royal culture, as well as rural culture. All these carpets were different, both in composition and in color. People have always used natural dyes to create them. Azerbaijan's territory has 9 out of 11 climatic zones. Such a variety of raw materials made it possible to create amazingly beautiful colors.

- The art of carpet is an entire philosophy. Patterns have deeper meaning. How can someone learn to understan what particular carpets mean?

- You have to learn a lot to understand it. Carpets can have a lot of meanings: the more you learn about some type of art, the more you plunge into the world of ornaments, understand how deep it all goes into the depths of history. In order to understand the true meaning, you have to learn history, context of particular historical time, archeology, mythology. Even Soviet era is reflected in carpets that preserved their artistic language, as well as carried spirit of their time. Carpet are always interactive and have always been closely associated with the time they were created in.

- You mentioned that carpets accompany person from birth to death. Are there any more traditions associated with carpets?

- There are a lot of them. Carpets are still part of people's heritage. Best carpets are always inherited by future generations. Moreover, new carpets are being made when a child is born. Ability to weave carpet was one of the most important. Previously, all women had to be able to weave carpets. Since the age of five, young girls helped their grandmothers, mothers, took part in creation of carpets, and those carpets were later passed on to them. They worked without any sketches. These skills were passed down from generation to generation.

Girls received necessary materials and had to show that they are able to weave, wash, dry, and dye carpets before wedding. Latif Kerimov said that he could tell about women's nature based on carpets they created.

- After the Seven Beauties exhibition will end, what else do you plan to show to residents and guests of Baku and Azerbaijan?

- We always hope to exchange exhibitions, because our audience is interested in traditions of arts and crafts of Russia. Our museum is open for cooperation in this direction. Last year we signed memorandum of cooperation with the Russian State Museum of Oriental Art, which has collection of Azerbaijani art. In April, we are planning to hold joint exhibition in Moscow .