Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Synagogue Rug and the Engsi: Epilogue
Mon, Apr 9th, 2007 11:28:47 AM
Topic: Synagogue Rug and the Engsi: Epilogue

We are not surprised to have received some emails doubting our comparison and idea this rug and the engsi format share a common ancestor.

Again, we repeat, we do not believe they are directly related in any way, as some of those email suggested, nor that either one was the original source for the other.

Rather, to restate our position, they both are branches off the trunk of a tree that was both of their ancestor.

Lately we have reviewed what has been written about engsi format by other authors. There was surely no shortage of pundits who have thrown their hats into this ring.

However, in all those we have reviewed, there is not one original idea about where this format came from nor, for the matter, have we read any original ideas at all about this mysterious genre of Turkmen weaving.

To digress a bit, in 1986 when we were first beginning to write the text to the Tentband - Tentbag book we had only one engsi in our collection and it was not included (neither were other Turkmen weavings we owned at the time).

Frankly, we had never had at that time the opportunity to purchase any engsi we felt was as historic and important as the chuval, torba and tentband we already owned and that is why we did not collect any or illustrate the one we had in the Tentband book. We should mention since '88 we have acquired some historic examples and someday might publish some of them here on RugKazbah.com.

We have already, in another thread here on RugKazbah.com, detailed how peter hoffscheister became involved in our Tentband book project and suggest curious readers read what we have written about hoffschiester, our sleazy and dishonest former friend.

The reason for our mention of hoffscheister in this context is for the following reason:

At the time we invited him to join our Tentband-Tentbag publishing project, hoffscheister had a number of engsi in his collection, one of which, this Ersari piece, we believed at the time (and still do) to be important and historic.

Granted it is a fragment:

All the others from his collection we did publish are, like almost all old engsi published in other books, not, in our estimation, truly important or historic.

We should also state for a number of years prior to his having joined, at our invitation, the Tentband project, we had known his collection and always marveled at that engsi.

So, naturally, when we chose the pieces from his collection to include in the book, we selected it.

We also helped hoffscheister write all the contributions to the book that bear his name.

Actually we co-wrote most of them, including his spiel on engsi which appears on page 110.

We always give credit where credit is due and the ideas hoffscheister writes about concerning the "..cosmological form..." he believes engsi display are entirely his. All we did is help him put those thoughts into English.

However, the first three sentences of the introductory paragraph to this section on Page 110 was written by RK alone and we republish them here as they bear more than slight reference to this thread's topic:

Engsi were undoubtedly very important tent articles which played a major role in the spiritual and artistic life of the Turkmen. There are few remaining examples, which maintain a clear and unbroken connection with the ancient tradition I feel played a major role in their development. These are symbolic cult objects and by following their design layout, an underlying message that today we can only guess is presented. "

We do not buy hoffscheister's idea and now others who believe it as well that the engsi is and shows a cosmological "tree of life". Nor do we put any credence in his interpretations of the iconography of the engsi format.

We do not think his ideas about the "Chinese soul banner" or the woman's sled from Siberia have any relationship to the engsi format.

We do, however, share the idea these are shamanic objects but that is as far as we go in agreeing with anything hoffscheister has written about engsi then or now.

Let's all remember the Tentband Tentbag book was published in 1988 and RK's interest and research into engsi preceded that time by a number of years, as well.

Also lets be clear hoffscheister did not suspect, nor did he know, anything about the pre-history of Turkmenistan.

Nor did he know anything about the archaeological record of discoveries that proves without doubt the long history of mans habitation in south-west Turkmenistan.

All of this information and its relationship to Turkmen weavings in the Tentband book project was solely the result of RKs research.

Since its publication hoffscheister has presented our ideas without permission, without giving credit to us and he has even presented our research as his own. This is one of the reasons we have christened him with the name hoffscheister and have often in print called him dishonest and a thief.

Since '88 there are a number of others who have written about engsi, including hoffscheister, who by the way has had nothing new to write since then (as his text to the icoc Turkmen exhibition in Washington D.C. some years ago proves). All he has done is repeat over and over what we co-authored and what he stole from RKs research.

In fact, authors like jon thompson, robert pinner and Uwe Jourdan, Murray Eiland, etc., who have also written about engsi, have had nothing new to say either-- their work relying solely on recounting what researchers who did fieldwork in Turkmenistan, like Moshkova, Felkersam, et. al., had previously written.

So for us to say no one has done anything original is definitely the case.

Also to answer our emailing critics we mention this to firstly place what we have written about engsi, both in the Weaving Art Museum's Turkmen Exhibition and here on RugKazbah.com, into perspective.

Secondly, we have offered our speculations about the engsi to attempt to fill the vacuum that continues to surround these enigmatic weavings.

And thirdly, we have written on this topic, "The Synagogue Rug and the Engsi", in an attempt to demonstrate why rug research must not be focused solely on information related to any specific group in trying to explain anything about it but must be broadened to include specifics from not only related groups but others which might seem to be unrelated or completely foreign.

Such is the case here and, even though almost nothing positive about the Synagogue rug is known (i.e. who made it, where it was made or why, etc.) its iconography, which is positive and there for all to see, can help us to perhaps understand another equally as mysterious question: The origination of the engsi format.

By the way, we do harbor some other thoughts about the relationships between this rug and the engsi format, however, because they are even more speculative, we have decided to let what we have thus far written stand and might, at some future date, reopen this topic and discuss them.

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