I came across the following article in the Winter 2008 issue of the Middle Eastern arts and cultural magazine, Bidoun. More and more these days, it seems that many of the great artists of this world are becoming hidden and forgotten behind layers of bias and political rhetoric. How much do we really know of our global neighborhoods and the fascinating people and cultural artifacts that lay waiting for us in them?
On July 31 , Iran unveiled the world’s largest hand-made carpet, ordered by the United Arab Emirates for the central prayer hall of Abu Dhabi’s enormous Sheikh Zayed mosque. The carpet was designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and produced by Iran’s state carpet company, whose director, Jalaleddin Bassam, made the following remarks:
As we all know, the weaving of Persian carpets is a timeless art form. Qasr al-Alam, the carpet you are observing beneath your feet today, is the greatest example of that art, and a testament to the enduring artistry of Iran’s villager-weavers, whose skills have been honed for generations. And yet, for the first time in nearly 3000 years, our industry is in decline. It is we who must take the initiative to remind the world of the superiority of our products and traditional artisans. I was recently saddened to learn that 59 percent of Germans have never heard of a Persian carpet. Fifty-nine percent of Germans! In what work are our diplomatic missions engaged? It seems we would be remiss not to inquire about the carpeting needs of the populations where they are stationed, and also identify the latest design preferences, find out which colors are in vogue, so that we can increase orders and the visibility of Iran.
Iran’s membership to the World Carpet Union can help prevent forgeries of traditional Persian rug designs – the theft of our cultural heritage – by other countries, but what it cannot do is convince you of the high value of an authentic, hand-crafted Persian carpet. Which is why I want to speak to you, the visiting dignitaries. You have heard me speak of the timelessness of this art. Now, let us bring this timelessness to your diplomatic headquarters, which might otherwise lack the accoutrements of perpetuity. Let us clothe your bare executive suite, so that your business partners and fellow policy-makers might luxuriate in a sense of infinitude. Let us pave the sad floors of your rented condominium with the knots of 3,000 years. Think of it as a gesture of goodwill.