Friday, July 18, 2008

Gilan Mat Weaving On the Decline

Gilan Mat Weaving
On the Decline
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The art of mat weaving has enriched the cultural identity of Gilan province. Handed down from generations to generations, it is on the decline largely because of huge handicraft imports in recent years.
Until a few decades, mats were used to cover floors, walls, windows and ceilings of houses in Gilan province. In addition to being beautiful decorations, mats helped absorb humidity as well, Mehr News Agency reported.
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Thriving Past
’Abkenar’ mat, woven by women, was very popular in Gilan in the not too distant past. Mats were used in almost all houses in the northern province and housewives washed them twice a year: at the beginning of spring and fall.
In the past, many women of Gilan made mats in addition to their daily housework for earning extra money.
History books recall that the art of mat weaving flourished in Anzali to an extent that one of the famous mat merchants in Ghazian had men and women from 150 families weaving mats for him. However, following improvement in standards of living, mats were gradually replaced by machine-made carpets. Consequently, mat-weavers chose to weave hats and baskets instead of floor coverings and handicrafts.
Officials also did not do much to improve the situation and handmade mats are on the verge of becoming a thing of the past.
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Harmful Imports
A handicraft merchant in Rasht, Mohammad Hosseini, lamented the fact that at present, rarely anybody wants to buy mats and those who are interested mats cannot find them.
Only a few mat-weavers are alive. Today, people prefer luxurious synthetic materials and as far as mat handicrafts are involved they prefer only hats and baskets.
He emphasized that since the youth do not slow any interest in learning the art of mat weaving, there are not many who know this art.
A mat-weaver, Morteza Tajaddod, said, “Everything is a function of the law of supply and demand. When there are no customers and nobody supports us, we cannot continue. Until a few years ago, a significant number of mat-weavers in Gilan produced baskets and hats. However, following the unfettered import of Chinese handicrafts and decline in demand, the number of mat-weavers also decreased.

Preservation
Tajaddod stressed that the art of mat weaving should be preserved by teaching it to the youth.
Another mat-weaver, Fatemeh Rajabi said, “I learned this art from my mother. Mats were mostly used as floor coverings and weaving mat baskets and hats was a secondary consideration. Since in recent years there was not much demand for mat floor coverings, I focused on weaving baskets, hats and silverware covers, and weave floor coverings when I receive an order.
She noted that mats are also used as a covering for the trunk of automobiles and tables.

Revival
A resident of one of the villages of Bijar, Safar Moradi, said, “Mat weaving is an art that could fill the leisure time of women, but at present it’s neglected.“
He cited the spread of automation and technological advances as the main reasons for the youth’s lack of interest in learning the art of mat weaving.
“In order to revive this handicraft, the production and sale of mats should be facilitated so that the youth see more incentives in learning mat weaving,“ he said.
Another handicraft expert maintained that even if mat weaving is on the decline, officials are obliged to adopt policies to preserve this art.
Maryam Tavallaei added that public awareness, supporting producers and holding exhibitions can help revive the art of mat weaving.
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