Magic Carpets



The art of buying a carpet. It’s an art ain’t it? Could be whimsical, or covered in an ecology of fanciful creatures, maybe a few sacred signs and stylized flowers thrown in for good measure? Pictorial echoes of the cultures that made them rolled up in threads of days gone by. Lovely that. Makes me think of the nomad wandering in a (hostile/barren) desert carrying his imaginary paradise in a two-dimensional Eden. Makes me think that having a carpet handy is imperative. Never mind a mounted elephant head, a handmade tapestry is the supreme travel trophy and a rare thrill. I don’t like trophies. But I love thrills. Like most alluring things, bagging a good carpet is not easy.

I remember being in Marrakesh, a place thick with carpet sharks and labyrinthine markets that I doubted I would ever find my way out of (as an aside I found and bought my very first pack of Doreen Virtue angel cards amidst the matting). The restrictions on portrayal of the human form in Islamic countries means some of the most popular designs are geometric arabesques. Which I happen to like. A lot. My bargaining session in the carpet souk took place to the sounds of Muslim devotional music. I felt triumphant and wanted to buy a tent too. Then I’d have the winning team that could always create an instant oasis. All I’d need is a sunset to ride off into when the time to move came.

There are two schools of thought about this. The buying and not my imaginary oasis. The first, the one expounded in many a story of old, holds that a casual carpet buyer like myself is a rare personality – an enthusiast. And as such, acts of expediency and novelty are performed almost without thinking. The second sees the exchange between myself and the carpet dealer as akin to a barely disguised duel, and that the art that lies within the rug must therefore contain hidden messages when put together. Am I suggesting subliminal carpets? Hell yes I am! I dig what Virgina Wolf wrote in A Sketch of the Past: ‘It is a constant idea of mine, that behind the cotton wool (of daily reality) is hidden a pattern; that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art.’ Treadable magic and being taken for a ride? Who’s gonna say no to that.


source: Maryam Montague

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