As many of you know RK has been interested in Turkmen rugs for a long time.
We authored a book, published in 1989, Tent Band Tent Bag: Classic Turkmen Weaving which presented 20 pieces from our old collection, commentary about them, and a summary of our investigations concerning the archaeological pre-history of Turkmenistan.
What was written there summed up what we had been researching up to 1985, and since then we have published some of our more recent investigations on the Weaving Art Museum website in the exhibition Turkmen Trappings: From Tent and Town.
That online work was published in 2004 and more recently, in 2008, RK authored our latest research in the another Weaving Art Museum online exhibition Animals Pearls and Flowers: Synthesis of Turkmen Iconography.
These two online exhibitions published some examples from our present Turkmen collection, which is focused on certain western Turkmen groups and their archetypal woven products.
Among these weaving we have a number of ancient engsi, and some details of them are published on the Weaving Art Museum website.
We write this to put the following into perspective, as it is easy to criticize but to do it from a position of authority and expertise lends credence to any such critique.
Today we heard through the grapevine someone had written and had published online something called: The Kush Motif in Turkmen Ensis and after reading this effort RK felt impelled to set the author straight, as clearly he is lost in the sauce.
We have copied a number of questionable, and frankly idiotic, statements contained in his presentation and will place our comments in bold type after each of them.
“Turkmen ensis, which are now generally understood to be door rugs for the Turkmen yurt or oï (the hypothesis that ensi were prayer rugs is no longer generally accepted).”
First off, and this is something many have also erred over, ensi, or engsi, is a word that is both singular and plural and there is no necessity to add an ‘s’.
This is a minor point but it is one that irks us to no end – kelim is the same, no necessity to pluralize it no matter how it is spelled.
As for the idea “Turkmen ensis…are now generally understood to be door rugs for the Turkmen yurt or oï” RK is equally irked about this as well, as it might be true for Turkmen engsi made after the Russian conquest in the late 1880’s but it is surely not a fact for any made before.
There is so much nonsense circulating about Turkmen rugs, and Anatolian kelim, it is beyond comprehension why anyone who has nothing new to say would want to repeat what has already been said over and over.
And besides there is no proof of any kind, other than the constant repetition, this nonsense is factual.
RK has offered up our speculative ideas about engsi in the Turkmen Trapping online presentation and we urge readers who have not already read this to do so.
By the way, what we wrote is original and while speculative it is based on documentary evidence and we present that evidence.
And as far as engsi being prayer rugs or not?
This is, for any pre-conquest engsi, an interesting question but more so it is a non-starter because there is little historic evidence any Turkmen, outside certain large centers, were, to any appreciable degree, practicing muslim when many of the genuinely old engsi were produced.
These point, we will readily agree, are minor ones, and we will soon demonstrate the author’s far more grievous ones, but we felt it pertinent to show how he is starting off on the wrong foot, well at least in our opinion.
“In traditional societies, the wedding is the most important point of the family life; it is the insurance of the family continuity, the hope of new opulence, the opportunity of new alliances, the venue for displaying the wealth of the family or clan.”
This myopic, arm-chair view encapsulates this author’s lame purview, for if he actually knew anything about “traditional societies” he would realize birth, coming of ‘age’ and death are equally as important as marriage.
Plus the term “traditional societies” is a misnomer, nothing but a non-descriptive tag he should know better than use.
What would be more to the point would be non-urban, or small-scale societies.
This, too, is again somewhat minor but when minor mistakes and errors are added up, as they can be here, they become in toto something major.
“Moshkova held that Turkmen products traditionally have guls that are group markers (with exceptions; for example, the tauk nuska gul is trans-tribal), and that there are guls for chuvals and guls for main carpets.”
For his information: Turkmen studies have gone way past Moshkova’s theories about the gol and to cite this as ‘fact’ demonstrates this author’s considerable short-comings and thin veneer of knowledge.
Again, why someone would want to regurgitate what others have already ready published ad naseum, particularly stale and out-dated information, is beyond RK’s understanding, and we believe that of others as well.
“Unlike bags and carpets, ensi never use guls, even when they aren't in the standard hatchli layout.”
Since the word gol, or gul if you like, is one without any real definition, ie anything could be a gol, making such a blanket statement, without at least qualifying it, is foolish.
Here is the four panel area of an ancient engsi with what we would consider a
Here is another ancient engsi with even more recognizable gol in its main border:
Now, RK grants the author might not be privy to such early, archetypal, engsi but that is the issue here – why someone who is a novice is bothering to work up a classic-comic book presentation for public consumption.
What is more questionable is why anyone would publish such an amateurish cut and paste job.
More about this later, let’s continue to dissect what is written.
“There are many questions about the ensi layout and its symbolic interpretations. Some symbols seems to be confirmed by traditional appellations: the lower part with one or two elems is associated with the ground or the earth; the upper part is associated with the sky or the heavens. The ensi could be interpreted as a cosmologic chart, which would also explain why this design is oriented. Some authors have seen evocation of the four cardinal points in the four central part. Others simply see this panel design as the copy of a paneled wood door. In the two lateral main borders, depending of the type, one can also see representations of climbing vines that symbolize ascension from the ground to the sky (in the case of meander design), or an ascending tree form (ashik or tree-ashik), or multi-branched candelabra (gopuz). The design of this latter form could be read as a totemic pole or tree with bird figures on the branches. This is an ambiguous form.”
Again nothing original here only regurgitation presented as fact, which it surely isn’t.
Let RK, if no one has, be the first to tell this author just because someone has written something doesn’t make it a fact, and all the above is nothing but old, stale speculation at best.
“The central pole can be read as a tree of life. All those symbols gathered in a rug make a very coherent picture. If the entrance of a yurt must be heavily charged with symbols and absolutely must not leave the passage to negative strengths and demons, it is not surprising that a special rug is there to protect the yurt and its inhabitants.”
While this might sound OK, RK would like to know how this author, or anyone else, knows what the designs he references truly mean.
After all we have no written sources to confirm this, and worse the author does not bother to even document what even one of these designs means.
This is piss-poor research, in fact it isn’t research it’s cut and pasting without much effort other than snip snip.
“One other track could be the one of “letters”. It is known that some symbols found on central Asia weaving, among the descents of the Oguz tribe, are in fact letters that can have meaning that are linked with the peoples. One of the characters found in the Orhun alphabet has a shape very near that of the Saryk hooked symbol described by Pinner in the “candelabras”. This letter is the equivalent of the K, the initial of kush. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but the clues are convergent.”
This is lunacy as the Turkmen, except for a tiny minority living in the major centers, were not literate.
How then could ‘letters” be the source of the “Kush” design this author is desperately trying to decipher?
“The fourth category gathers odd forms that can be derived from the others and with rare examples among the bulk of the ensis production. Among those odd forms one can cite some found in the Tekke production or in the Ersari ensis (pronged devices or "crowned" bird’s head with diamond device). One can suspect a contamination with kotchak design.”
The sole contamination problem here is this authors understanding of his subject.
Trying to comprehend the meaning and sources of engsi iconography is a very difficult topic, and the simplistic paradigm this author offers up are hardly readable, let alone credible.
Less so are his arrows shot in the dark, like suggesting the kotchak contaminated some unknown design to create the Kush, nothing but a patently stupid assertion.
“There is apparently no absolute rule for the distribution of types of kush motif among the Turkmen groups, except for the Saryk with their special models.”
Pulling incomplete references out of his hat, like this, bodes poorly for this author’s ability to do anything other than patter on and say nothing.
In the work of Robert Pinner ( Turkoman Studies I) about the "animal tree ensis", some typology seems to exist. Tekke ensis with lateral meander borders usually have a kush motif of the zoomorphic profile type 1 or O1 (with simple or double top device), while Tekke with gopuz candelabra lateral borders have a less zoomorphic candelabra kush (third type and O2).”
What pinner wrote was, after all, written 30 years ago, and in light of the many since discovered ‘animal-tree’ engsi his typology is far from as secure back then.
In fact, back then it was not secure and referencing it now is more nothing but more myopia and name-dropping.
“The kush design seems to have been a more or less realistic representation of a symbolized bird. Birds have important symbolic meanings linked to death and to the travel of the soul of the deceased persons. It is also a natural link between the earth and the sky, and is known to have great importance in shamanistic beliefs. For those reasons, there are many bird representations in rugs and weavings: Balouch, Persian (see Opie’s Tribal Rugs) and Turkmen (bird asmalyks, for example). The birds that are represented in those weavings are generally recognizable: poultry, hens and cocks in rural Persian weavings (to symbolize the desire of wealth), peacocks (three appendices on the head, great tail), eagles (heavy hooked beaks, claws). They can also be mythical animals like two headed eagles or phoenix.”
The Kush emblem might be a bird, and it might not – a major fact that is clearly lost on this author.
The Role of the Sufis in Turkmen Religious Practices: The common religion of central Asian Turkmen was Islam, but not in the traditional form. Their Islam was supported by Sufi communities, and Sufis were the direct successors of shamans (kam-ozan) in central Asia, from whom they retained some beliefs and practices that survived under Islam (typical synchretism). This is the origin of the “holy tribes” or övlat. Here is the Wikipedia article about the övlat:……”
Please, sir, wake the freak up – Turkmen were not sufi. Period, you dolt.
The next statement is about a dumb and obtuse as any ever made concerning engsi, ant that’s a tough thing to accomplish.
“Sufis are also known to have been prominent in some Turkmen areas, and the Pendeh oasis had a large Sufi community……..For all of those reasons, there were probably links between the shamanic roots of the Turkmen peoples, Sufism as the Islamic inheritor of the animist ancient religion, and the special drawing of the ensis and of the kush design as an evocation of the turna (crane).”
Building a bridge to nowhere from nowhere is a hard feat to accomplish but this author has done that, Congrats.
If this were a comedy routine he could get some good belly-laughs but, as it isn’t, all he has done is a giant bellyflop –- man overboard.
“Generally, traditional designs evolve through by long drifting of drawings.”
Another absurd statement from nowhere, and considering Turkmen design iconographies were proscribed and highly protected within the weaving culture this author’s absurd statements are troubling and totally incorrect.
“We have examples of very old Turkmen weavings that are suspected to have been made several centuries ago (generally chuvals).”
Oh, yeah? What about main carpets, engsi, tentband, asmalyk, torba, mafrash, ok-bash, etc?
This author needs to be brought down to earth and given a good does of reality.
But this next statement, another of his beyond dimwitted tautologies, takes the cake for abject stupidity.
“The special design of ensi would have attracted the attention of traders and painters if they had encountered it. This suggests a relatively recent (16th to 18th century) and intentional origin and construction.”
Were this author’s ‘work’ only a bridge over troubled waters RK might have gone a bit more lightly on him.
But considering our bridge from nowhere to nowhere analogy we believe he needs to be muzzled and prevented from ever opening his mouth again in public, or in private for that matter, about a Turkmen rug that is not a ‘Pakistani Bokara’.
“Standard ensi might have been invented by a Sufi community or övlat. Perhaps an isan designed the ensi prototype (maybe from an engraved wood panel) for pedagogic purposes: explanation of the cosmos and the spiritual life using well known symbols directly inherited from shamanic roots (among them the dancing paired cranes).”
Again, even a child could shoot holes in this author’s ‘work’ big enough to fly a 747 through.
Engsi “invented” by the sufi community?
Please, sir, get real and shut up – you know nothing, you have proven this.
And your suppositions are stupid, ill-posed and totally ridiculous.
“There are instances of rug designs invented by a man. One is the Zahir Shahi design, by Afghan king Zahir Shah.”
OK, so what does this reference have to do with your thesis? RK has to say absolutely nothing other than another bridge from nowhere to nowhere you are building with popsicle sticks and chewing gum.
“It is also possible that the classical ensi replaced door rugs that existed before its invention, perhaps with gul design or ram’s horn, or that it replaced felt door hangings. The indiscutable(sic) fact is that the use of standard ensi seems to have been limited to the “classical” Turkmen tribes. For example, there are no known Belouch ensis (perhaps Belouch did not use yurts, but had "black tents").
This essay is largely speculative, but is not totally based on “wind”.”
Who is this joker kidding?
Well one man’s wind might be another man’s hurricane but to end such a foolish, amateurish cut and paste job, with such a qualifier, which he clearly recognizes is needed, does so little to instill confidence in his readers who he has succeeded blowing to kingdom come with his “wind”.
RK known rugDUMB is populated with others just like this man, whose name is Louis Dubreuil.
This ludicrous ‘paper’ on engsi was published online on turk0tek dot com, a website RK has in the past ridiculed for its pathetically low and disinteresting, not to mention frequently erroneous and incorrect, content.
To make publishing this claptrap even worse here is the congratulatory message dr steven price, aka price=clown, bestowed on Dubreuil:
“My congratulations to Louis for being able to clearly separate his hypotheses from the facts that led to them. Ideas about design evolution are not uncommon, but the clarity with which he presents his arguments is rare.”
Obviously dr price is as lost, as ignorant and, yes, as stupid and Turkmen challenged as the author he is complimenting.
God save the Turkmen rug and the memories of the brilliant weavers, who produced the early examples RK collects, from dumb stupid clowns and fools like price and Dubreuil.
Moronic turko-idiots who should not even be allowed to breath the dust and dirt any Turkmen weaving has collected since coming off the loom.