Late nineteenth-century kilims (flatweaves) created by the Arab community of Central Asia are barely known or studied. One reason is the dearth of information about this population, which migrated to the region between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. Most settled in the Kashkadarya region in southern Uzbekistan, close to the Afghan border. The area became a major center for carpet production in the nineteenth century. For many Arab households, weaving was the main source of income, and flatweaves were particularly valued for their distinct patterns, durability, and range of sizes.
Referred to as arabi (of Arab) and bazar gilyam (bazaar carpets), these Arab Uzbek kilims were woven exclusively from wool yarn in five or six colors: a brownish red produced with madder, orange, dark blue, dark green, white, and black. All the tones are saturated and intense, which lend the carpets a conspicuous decorative quality. The designs consist of bold geometric shapes, skillfully harmonized into complex patterns. Often the scale of the motifs varies depending on that of the carpet itself.
The kilims were used as floor coverings both inside and outside homes. The larger ones were special commissions, intended for the grand new urban residences built by the Bukharan elite.
Seven Arab Uzbek kilims
Uzbekistan, Kashkadarya oblast (region), third quarter of 19th century
Wool warp and weft
H × W: 1) 384 × 180 cm; 2) 597 × 201 cm; 3) 345 × 193 cm; 4) 328 × 165 cm; 5) 423 × 191 cm; 6) 295 × 156 cm; 7) 424 × 194 cm
Gift of the Barbaros Collection (Louise Shelley and Richard Isaacson)
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S2018.24.1–7