Arguably the best and oldest example of the kejebe pattern was on displayed on an “S” group torba I formerly owned. Here is a photo:
and another one for comparison:
The differences in the proportions of the individual designs, and the overall one as well, are the most obvious criteria we can use to show its superiority not only to this second one but to all the other published examples.
In this type of side-by-side comparison, where only visual clues are possible, the flattened and truncated appearance demonstrated in the second example, as well as a host of other criteria a hands-on examination requires, should be enough to prove my point.
I should mention there is another type of kejebe torba – one that has an additional medallion. Here is a photo of a very respectable and old one:
This example has two of those additional medallions but there are other examples of the type with three and a few with only one. Notice the top of the kejebe icon appears within these medallions along with some other designs.
By the way, all of these kejebe torba were sold at sotheby’s and, although the stories of the others are not worth mentioning, the real story behind the first one is.
One day I will tell all but for now its sale, along with the 19 other lots from my collection sold with it, will have to remain shrouded in what has become one of the, if not the World of Turkmen Rug Sales greatest assemblage of mis-and dis-information.
So far no writer or researcher has tried to explain the kejebe or its significance. This has intrigued me and I am presently, and have been for years, working on these questions. This is not the time or the place to reveal what I have learned and believe but I will gladly mention a few observations.
The first is the question: What really is the kejebe? Is it the somewhat anthropomorphic icon housed within each of the gables or niches (there are 14 in the upper torba and 12 in the lower while the other type of torba also has 12)? Or is the kejebe really this design plus the surrounding gable or niche?
I believe it is the later of these choices, as this convention remains unchanged in all genuinely old examples, while the icon within - the somewhat quizzical anthropomorphic one – does assume a number of subtle but different and easily recognized aspects.
Notice the first torba has only one pair of arm-like appendages, as does the third one, while in the second one these have been forgotten and are absent. In their place the triangles at the bases of the others have been substituted.
The presence of the niche itself is the second. This icon is recognized as perhaps one of the most ancient of all sacred patterns and it is known from as early as the Palaeolithic Period. Because of this it is easy to assume it carried a similar sacred meaning here.
When this fact is combined with the somewhat anthropomorphic icon it houses on these rare torba I have come to believe they also carried for the Turkmen who originally wove these articles (or were destined to own them) some highly spiritual meaning and connotation.
There is more and for now I chose to remain silent but promise to sometime in the future flesh out the rest of this story. Probably this will take some more years and I am not promising to do this on RK.com – ‘nuff said on that one.
The Craddock Ersari torba
demonstrates for us what should be considered as the last, genuine gasp of the kejebe mythology in Turkmen weaving.
In many aspects it is similar to the first two much older examples shown here but there are many differences.
Let me note a few of the more significant similarities and differences for you:
1. notice the similarity between the major border it shares with the first torba. This is perhaps the most salient clue to RK.com’s dating it to at least 1870-1880. Known as the pei-kam border, which by the way is a very rare and archaic one, it proves the ancient cultural connection the weaver of the Craddock torba maintained. Its appearance there was no accident or coincidence and truly I would prefer to own Craddock’s torba rather than the second one illustrated here regardless of its lower rug- pedigree or value (Ersari weaving never command the respect or price of an “S” group piece).
2. notice how the Craddock torba has substituted a rather simplistic dyrnak-gol in place of the de rigueur small medallion seen in the first two examples. Notice there is also the version of this small medallion in the third one as well.
3. notice the now completely doubled outline of the gable or niche the Ersari weaver used and compare this to the single outline all the others demonstrate. It is highly probable the double lines connecting each of the niches the other three examples exhibit, as well as those surrounding the third torba’s large medallions atop and bottom, were the source of this embellishment.
There are others but I will leave it to you to find them and think about them for yourselves.
I am pleased Allan Craddock submitted his Ersari torba here for discussion and hope he, as well as other readers, now understand not only its importance as a worthy example of the kejebe but also the complexities, history and mystery Turkmen rugs encompass.