Exploring the dying art of the Qashqai rug makers with David Attenboroughby Fiona Rae
The Kiwi, the Knight and the Qashqai celebrates the nomadic rug makers of Iran amidst reminiscences from the famous documentary-maker.
Williams, a skilled oriental-rug repairer, is captured in this documentary on one of her many visits to Iran, where she visits the bazaars of Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz.
She has visited Iran over the years in order to learn the tricks of the trade, new techniques and to supplement her yarns. As New Zealand’s only independent rug repairer, she has “no peer group, no professional body” so she needs to keep up with the industry by herself.
But, in particular, she goes to Iran to visit the Qashqai nomads who are famous for their vibrant costumes and colourful, detailed rugs. What she finds is a lifestyle that has changed dramatically since David Attenborough filmed his documentary about the Qashqai, Woven Garden, in 1975.
In something of a coup, director Anna Cottrell asked Sir David for an interview and he obliged. When Williams asks why he was willing to be interviewed, he tells her it was the uniqueness of the request. After all, it’s not every day he’s asked to talk about the Qashqai.
In 1975, the Qashqai were migrating north on camels and horses and many of the women would weave during the month-long trek. However, nowadays, that journey takes five hours in a truck or car. Williams also finds that many young Qashqai have left for the city and are not interested in weaving. On top of that, there’s no money in it.
“We can hardly blame them,” says Sir David. When the rugs are so “labour intensive and very poorly paid”. There are 300-400 knots per square inch and even a small rug may take five or six years.
Williams’ gift is being able to get along with people of all stripes. She has even managed to circumnavigate the closed male world of rug repair in Iran.
“I haven’t met anyone like Anna to be so interested,” says her friend in Tehran. “It is a man’s world, but Anna will sit down with them on the floor and they are willing to teach her and share the way they do their repairs.”
It’s the loss of traditional patterns and institutional memory that saddens Williams, but some traditions persist. The Qashqai still dance at weddings, even though it is not allowed in Iran. “They are not going to be told they can’t dance,” says Williams.
This article was first published in the November 24, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Winston Peters’ contrariness and belligerence in the media feed the impression of a self-indulgent, China-baiting tear.Read more
A Government-initiated working group suggested putting a speed limit of 130km/h on motorways to lower emissions and make roads safer. Big mistake.Read more
John C Reilly and Steve Coogan are lifelong devotees to comic duo Laurel and Hardy – and it shows.Read more
With his second book about Sam Hunt proving a hit, Colin Hogg ponders why so much of his writing career has been inspired by his mates.Read more
Vote for your favourite dish in the 2019 Peugeot People’s Choice Award and be in to win dinner for two.Read more
The closer you get to a kauri, the more you realise you are looking at one of the wonders of the planet.Read more
National's Bluegreen wing are set to hold their annual conference this weekend. Greenpeace’s Steve Abel will be there to challenge the party.Read more
Lidu Gong first started learning te reo in bed.Read more