The selection of the old prayer rugs from Sarajevo mosques are on view at Hanikah in Sarajevo

image The exhibition 'Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques' at Hanikah, The entry of Hanikah and the installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The exhibition 'Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques' is on view since December 7, 2016 and is a part of the yearly event 'Sallam Ya Resulallah'. The exhibition was opened by Dr. Ćazim Hadžimejlić, Kenan Šurković and Mensur Malkić, Director of Gazi Hisrev Beg Madrasa. A part of the exhibition was also the conference where Dr. Ismet Bušatlić, Dr. Haris Dervišević and Fatima Žutić, MA, discussed the significance of the prayer rugs in general and those found in Sarajevo mosques.

image The opening of the exhibition / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image L-R. Dr. Ćazim Hadžimejlić, Kenan Šurković and Mensur Malkić, Director of Gazi Hisrev Beg Madrasa / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The exhibition is a result of many months of research by Kenan Šurković and Dr. Haris Dervišević to find old prayer carpets and rugs in Sarajevo mosques. The reason for this study was that the authors of the exhibition found in historical documents records that show that Sarajevo mosques from the Ottoman period had a significant number of handmade carpets and rugs from the Balkans and those of oriental origin. However, the research has started mainly since this artistic treasure in various ways is disappearing from the mosques.

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The project was very comprehensive, since Sarajevo has over 70 mosques from the Ottoman period. 43 old prayer rugs and 20 carpets have been found so far, dating from the late 18th century to the first years of the 20th century. 26 prayer rugs from 43 have been selected and presented to the public as the first step towards their protection. This collection will probably be the nucleus of the rug collection of the future Museum of Islamic Arts in Sarajevo.

This research did not focus solely on the rugs made in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also those of oriental origin, mainly from Turkey and Iran. In particular, the aim was to find old rugs of high quality which became a part of the identity of Sarajevo mosques. In the last hundred years there has been a great devastation of art treasures in Bosnia, so the goal was to find and catalogued what was still preserved in Sarajevo mosques. Bratislava Vladić-Krstić, a historian who visited several Bosnian mosques in 70s, for her study of the carpet-making in Bosnia and Herzegovina noticed that there were almost no valuable carpets left.

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Sarajevo due to its historical significance proved to be the ideal place to start this research, where some significant and valuable rugs and carpets have still been preserved unlike other Bosnian cities, like Mostar where, during and after the war in 90s, all valuable carpets have been stolen or destroyed. On the other hand, valuable carpets and rugs were often sold for next to nothing, or were destroyed just because they were old. Sarajevo offers hope, as numerous historical documents testify to the presence of valuable rugs in Sarajevo mosques. But disappointing fact is that such art is slowly disappearing and in many mosques valuable carpets and rugs have been replaced by machine-made copies of low quality.

Handmade carpets and rugs were a trademark of Bosnian mosques in the sense that they reflected 'home environment' (many mahala mosques are derivatives of residential architecture), while the prayer rugs emphasized the sacred dimension of the interior space. A mosque could not be imagined without a large handmade central carpet and a prayer rug in front of the mihrab and mimber, just as there was a rule that the calligraphic inscription of God's name and the name of the Prophet were always placed on both sides of mihrab.

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Visitors admiring the rugs / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

It was a custom to donate rugs and carpets to a local mosque for the opening of a mosque, after returning from the Hajj, or as a waqf. As arabesques decorate the walls, carpets and rugs decorate the floors. Without it, a mosque was never considered to be complete. The custom of donating carpets, specially prayer rugs, was apparent in the more affluent neighbourhoods, so a larger number of handmade carpets and rugs were found in the Kebkebir Hajji Ahmed Mosque, Vekil Hatlo Hajji Mustafa Mosque, Arap Mosque and Sagra Hajji Ali Mosque. A special case is the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque which received handmade carpets and rugs as 'diplomatic' gifts. Recently all rugs and carpets in the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque have been replaced, and are now preserved for the future Museum of Islamic Arts in Sarajevo.

image Visitors looking at the rugs / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Students discussing the rugs / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Visitor at the exhibition / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Unfortunately, in Bosnia the carpets and rugs are perhaps the most underrated part of the mosque inventory, most times considered to be replaced or even destroyed. In the context of Islamic art history carpet-making was and still is a very important part of artistic tradition. No other art in the world has such a big production and such great achievements as carpet-making, which is particularly valued in the West. The most expensive ever sold artefact of Islamic art is a Safavid carpet whose price reached $ 33 million. Old oriental carpets and rugs in the world are highly valued, and this needs to be brought to public awareness. For all these reasons we hope that this exhibition will be a step forward in the preservation of old and valuable prayer rugs, carpets and kilims in Bosnian mosques.

image Old Prayer Rugs from Sarajevo Mosques, Installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The authors of the exhibition would like to use this opportunity to thank Mr. Alberto Boralevi, an Italian expert for antique rugs and textiles, for his help with determining the style and age of the found prayer rugs.

The exhibition opened on December 7 and will run until December 21, 2016 in Hanikah, located across the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in Sarajevo.


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