KAITAG, Textile Art from Daghestan
exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Emirgan, Istanbul
19 April to 19 August 2007


Kaitag region, south-west Daghestan
18th century or earlier
62 x 116 cm
silk embroidery on cotton

At a first glance, this freehand design recalls an enlarged version of Fatimid or Abbasid tiraz woven bands. This is a possible source, as there have been 'Pharo'on', or Egyptian Copts, living in Megwa, next to Gapshima, since the 8th century. The design elements seem to be in a coded language. The eroded rock-shaped zoomorphs may well be a development of an arabesque. These are quite separate from the blazons formed of blocks of nine hieroglyphic squares, perhaps based on Kufic letters, which, in the central band, are separated by hockey-stick shapes similar to those seen in heraldic blazons on 15th century Mamluk Egyptian metalwork, enamelled glass and carpets. There are a few surviving examples of zilus, the name for Egyptian cotton flatweaves woven with a special technique. This same technique is also found in the woollen weavings of a mountain village further south in Daghestan. Their greatly simplified Mamluk designs are evidence of other such contacts. These talismanic embroideries may also have drawn inspiration from, or shared a similar tradition with, occult books from Egypt that showed alchemical symbols alongside ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The nine colours of laid and couched silk thread are enhanced by the texture of a fine chequered background of diagonal brick filling stitch. While the outline stem stitch articulates the detailed motifs, the larger areas of the design are delineated by chevroned lines formed by reverse double chain stitch.


return to: Kaitag, Textile Art from Daghestan - A Selection

text and images © Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul
and textile-art, London, 2007:
not to be reproduced without permission