Flat Weaves from the Toros Mountains
I have been fascinated by the Toros ever since I first set foot in these
mystifyingly beautiful mountains in the mid 1970s. At the time, its inhabitants
appeared to lead a free semi-nomadic existence, which was demonstrated by
the driving of the cattle from winter quarters (kisla) up to summer pastures
(yayla). I was particularly fond of the textiles which the tribal people
produced for everyday use, and was really taken by the decorated sacks (cuval)
woven in individual techniques (e.g. sumakh) and related to relevant tribal
The large mountain range stretching from south east to south west of the
Anatolian plateau, has always offered shelter to migrating peoples. Tens
of thousands of caves (many more than in Kappadokia) and a large number of
secluded valleys used to be, and are still ideal for retreat and were used
as hiding places by the original population and distressed new settlers.
These days, Yuruk tribes are the main groups of settlers in the Western and
Central Toros Mountains. After being expelled from their home lands by the
Mongolians during the 10th century they eventually settled in the mountainous
regions on the northern Mediterranean coast. The Outer Toros as well as the
more distant Toros Mountains are mainly inhabited by Kurds. In some cases,
they were resettled there by the Osman emperor; in others they seem to be
the only indigenous tribes still inhabiting the region.
The Yuruk as well as the Kurdish culture has been in decline for centuries.
When visiting the Toros during a period of over twenty years, I used to
meet up with small camel caravans, on their traditional way up to the yayla.
I remember coming across these caravans in the Central Toros Mountains in
the late seventies and even in 1986. From then on, however, the camel caravans
have been replaced by large numbers of trucks taking herds of sheep and
goats, as well as the extended families' belongings to far away summer pastures.
Far-reaching changes in the life-style of the indigenous tribes eventually
brought an end to the traditions of tribal textile art.
The traditional way of life in the Toros has been ruined to a large extent
by road works, drainage of swamps in coastal areas and valleys, extensive
use of comparatively small and constantly diminishing pastures, destruction
of natural resources. There are only few photographs and rare examples of
flat weaves left, to give us a vague idea of the past splendour of life
in the Toros. For this exhibition, I have selected some 40 decorated sacks,
cushions and kilims from the early 19th to the early 20th century, as textile
illustrations of the Toros peoples' free existence.