Breaking the Mold: Re-thinking Oriental Rugs


Rugs have a long and rich history, with many different cultures and traditions contributing to their production and design. One of the most well-known and celebrated traditions is that of the Middle Eastern rug. These rugs have been highly valued for centuries, both in the Middle East and the West, for their intricate patterns, vibrant colors, and high-quality craftsmanship.

However, as Edward Said argues in his book "Orientalism," the way these rugs have been represented and marketed in the West is not always an accurate or authentic portrayal of the cultures and traditions they originate from. Said contends that the West has long held a fascination with the "Orient" - a term used to describe the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa - and that this fascination has often been based on a set of stereotypes and prejudices that have been used to justify Western imperialism and domination of the East.

In the case of rugs, this has manifested in the way that they have been marketed and sold in the West as exotic and mysterious "Oriental" objects, imbued with a sense of otherness and exoticism. This image has been perpetuated by the rug industry and Western art and literature, with rugs being depicted as symbols of wealth and luxury. However, Said argues that this representation is not an accurate or authentic portrayal of the East but rather a product of Western fantasy and prejudice.

It's important to note that Said's critique of Orientalism is not to say that the art and culture of the East are not valuable or worth appreciating, but rather that they should be understood and represented in a way that is authentic, respectful, and free of stereotypes. This is particularly important for those in the rug industry, as the way that rugs are represented and marketed can have a significant impact on how they are perceived and valued.

As a seller of rugs, it's essential to be aware of the issues raised by Said's "Orientalism" and to approach the representation of the rugs you sell in an ethical and culturally sensitive way. This can mean providing accurate information about the history, culture, and techniques behind the rugs, as well as being mindful of the language and imagery used in marketing and advertising. It's also important to be aware of the potential power dynamics involved in the rug trade and to ensure that the artisans and communities who produce the rugs are treated with respect and fair compensation.

Moreover, it's essential to be aware of the different cultural and artistic traditions that have contributed to the production of rugs, such as Persian, Turkish, and nomadic tribes, and to be able to distinguish between them and not generalize them under the term "Oriental."

In conclusion, Said's "Orientalism" provides an important perspective on how the East has been represented and constructed in the West, and it has significant implications for those in the rug industry. By being mindful of the issues it raises, you can ensure that the rugs are presented in a responsible and culturally sensitive way and that their artistic and cultural value is being appreciated and respected.

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Bihter Ege Baskin

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