Kilim is the word used to describe a flat weave rug found mostly in the Middle East, in Caucasia and in Central Asia that has probably existed for almost ten thousand years as shown by many relics of the past. Until very recently, kilims were not produced for commerce. They have therefore preserved their authenticity. They represent the collective memory and the identity of the nomads, semi-nomads and sedentary people that weave them.
Each tribe, each village has its own style: bright or dark colours, complex or simple patterns, varying from region to region. Their motifs are a symbolic writing inherited from ancient shaman beliefs.
Would weaving be one of mankind’s oldest artistic expressions? A British archaeologist, James Meelart, may have answered this question during a dig in Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site near Konya, where he unveiled some wall paintings with striking resemblance to Central Anatolian kilims. According to him, this form of art may have started with the domestication of sheep, around 8000 years ago. Other archaeologists such as Elizabeth Wayland Barber, suggest that wool only started to be used for weaving around 4000 B.C.The motifs seen on kilims may have therefore been inspired from decorations on pottery or basketwork as suggested by Cathryn M. Cootner in her work about the McCoy collection. Whichever way around, woollen weavings have allowed these motifs to survive the longest as they are still found today amongst folks that weave. The themes that inspired our ancestors have made their way during time to us along with their hopes, fears and beliefs. This patrimony of motifs covers an area that reaches from the Balkans to China. It seems that this art originally developed in Mesopotamia and then spread out towards Central and Eastern Asia oasis with nomads. This lifestyle appeared between the Euphrates and the Tigris during the 3 rd millennium B.C, to provide for a growing need for meat and wooll which forced the nomads to keep on the move in search of new pastures. Westerners have only recently discovered this type of weaving even though some kilim lovers had already been appreciating its incredible art form and special magic for quite some time.
This is exactly why, not having being considered as a trade object, the kilim has remained authentic. The techniques of spinning of the wool, dying of the colours and the weaving in itself have all remained the same over the years.
These traditional techniques continued until the end of the 19 th century when chemical dyes appeared.
Each tribe, each village has its own style, inherited from previous generations : bright or dark colours, complex or simple patterns, varying from region to region. Yet, there is much individual freedom in each woven kilim.
Each kilim is a unique item, inspired, authentic, modern through its graphic patterns, eternal through its ancient sources of inspiration.