Kilim (traditional rug) weaving, once a widespread craft that could be found on thousands of looms across Gaziantep province, has seen a drastic decline recently. A new project is trying to preserve this traditional skill for future generations through training at Gaziantep University's Handicrafts Protection and Development Center.
The center offers diverse training for university staff and students as well as for convicts on probation.
Gaziantep kilims, which were traditionally made on "pit" and "hanged" looms with cotton as well as ox, camel, goat and horse hair, and wool, are now woven for tourists with acrylic, velvet and polyester materials.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), an instructor at the Handicrafts Protection and Development Center, Ahmet Özbek, said that nowadays there are very few weavers left.
Stating that the kilims made in Gaziantep were very popular in the past, Özbek said: "Kilims used to be essential for every household. There were looms in everyone's house. They used to grow cotton in their gardens. Since kilim making was one of the four or five professions in the city, parents would always hope their daughters would marrying kilim weavers."
Formerly, nearly all houses had a loom in Gaziantep while the art is giving a fight for survival.
Underlining that after mechanical looms were created, jobs declined, he said: "You have to work a whole day to weave one kilim by hand, but machines can weave them much faster. While working in the neighborhood of Şehreküstü, I had 12 or 13 workers with me. Some quit after time. We tried to make it better, but it did not work. I came to the university to save this craft. I am still trying. The aim of being at the university is to educate people who will protect and develop the handicrafts in Gaziantep. Someone has to take on this responsibility, we need to hand it over to future generations. We transfer our knowledge and experience to our students and our friends working in the project."
Courses are given to convicts as well
Noting that they give lessons using wooden looms, Özbek added that there are those who are still interested in kilims.
He also highlighted that kilim making is very valuable since it is a handcraft, and one of the most important qualities is the style of the looms, with bobbin cases that are round and simple.
He expressed that their center is like a school. "We organize regular training here. University staff and students come to practice whenever they want. We also have trainees on probation with the Social Support Program who study with us for nine months. There are many talented people among them. It's a chance for them to learn a profession. In addition, we help colleagues from departments like carpet making or textile engineering. We always transfer our knowledge. We have future projects as well. We are planning to offer courses to those who are interested in this art."
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