Fourth Conference on the
Art of Azerbaijan Carpets
An improbable venue (Paris) and a somewhat odd gathering if viewed from the outside -- a one day proceedings in a huge UNESCO auditorium complete with microphones, earphones, simultaneous translation, and no attendees beyond those on the program or associated with them. Not, however, the least bit strange from an Azeri perspective.
A minor unintended consequence of the affair was the bringing together of the handful of Europeans and Americans who were at the first conference in Baku in 1983. A nice reunion for those individuals.
Fourteen formal presentations were very different in nature and can be grouped as follows: three were a bit far out, two seeing parallels between the carpets and an Azeri musical/poetic form (mugham), and one which spotted the Mother Goddess in the floral borders of certain pileless carpets; three were re-hashes of prior work, two by outsiders and one by Togrul Efendi and Academician Rasim Efendi, a précis of their knowledgeable recent book on Kazak district (the Efendis are Kazaks); two presentations were standard for rug conferences, one (Herbert Exsner) having to do with bags, another (Wendel Swan) reviewing structural aspects of so-called Shah Sevan pile products; and a remainder on quite dissimilar topics. Among these one stood out: fresh material by Ivan Szanto (Lorand University, Budapest) describing Heris then (Il Khanid period) and now (the popular late 19th c. carpets).
The clear purpose of the meeting was celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Latif Kerimov, the towering 20th c. figure in the art of Azerbaijan carpets, and considerable homage was the order of the day. The symposium also was the occasion for distribution of a slick two-volume publication, the one hagiography of the maestro, the other, the conference papers (Roya Taghiyeva, ed., Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Azerbaijanian Carpet Art, February, 2007, Paris). In addition, the meeting gave Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture Gariev an opportunity for announcing construction ground-breaking of the new carpet museum in Baku, and the scheduling of the next conference to coincide with the museum’s opening.
In sum, this event was driven by goals internal to Azerbaijan and was a considerable success in those terms; and, for those interested persons outside the country its publication is an uneven but nevertheless useful addition (in Azeri, Russian, and English) to the literature on Azerbaijan carpets.