A finely-knotted Pakistani Aryana rug from Yayla tribal rugs.
Some of the best new oriental rugs are being made in Pakistan by Afghan refugees.
The path for the rug renaissance in Pakistan was paved by Afghanistan’s tragic civil war and the subsequent flood of Afghan refugees into neighboring Pakistan. More than a million Afghans sought refuge there, and hundreds of thousands still live in refugee camps in Peshawar and elsewhere near the Afghan-Pakistan border. Great numbers live in tents pitched in the desert. They segregate themselves by tribal alliances and language groups: Baluchis, Turkmen, Hazaras, and others.
Afghan refugees watching a Buz Kashi
match at Khorassan Camp near Peshawar, 1991. Photo by Chris Walter
Among the immigrants are weavers who must number in the hundreds of thousands. Disrupted, cut off from their traditional means of making a living, they have perforce become receptive to new ideas and new designs. Westerners and others who would like rugs made to their specification approach producers with their requests. A contract is made between them, and the producer sees the project through to completion. Typically the producer creates graph paper drawings of designs, and supplies them to weavers along with dyed wool. Weavers work at their own looms or on looms owned by the producer. The system is flexible, quick, and readily available to anyone wanting rugs made to order. It largely accounts for the immense variety of rugs that make their way to the market.
Other Westerners take a far greater part in the rugmaking process. They become their own producers, supplying their own designs and materials and making scores of decisions about production details such as dyeing, clipping, the color of the foundation material, finishing, and so forth. These people are the true rugmakers.
In the coming weeks we’ll post stories of our favorite rug producers working in Pakistan, including Chris Walter and Habibullah, Art Resources, I.M. International, Khal Mahmeti, Q Mark, Pamir and Hazara Looms.