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Museum's Murad Megalli Collection of kilims highlights artistic achievements of nomadic women
Kilim (detail), Central Anatolia, late 18th century. The Textile Museum 2013.2.1. The Megalli Collection. Courtesy of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.

WASHINGTON, DC.- An exhibition opening Saturday at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum demonstrates the artistic achievements of women who lived a now-vanished nomadic lifestyle that flourished for centuries in Anatolia. “A Nomad’s Art: Kilims of Anatolia” features 18th and 19th-century examples of majestic textiles known as kilims, which were woven to protect and adorn tents and camel caravans. The exhibition will be on view through Dec. 23.

Kilims are the most enduring records of life in nomadic communities in Anatolia, part of modern-day Turkey. For centuries, groups of families migrated hundreds of miles, twice a year, to winter and summer pastures with large flocks of sheep and goats. This lifestyle vanished in the 20th century as it became less viable economically and socially.

“Kilims hold significance far beyond their visual impact,” senior curator Sumru Belger Krody said. “Most importantly, they are the only lasting material evidence of their makers’ nomadic lifestyle. These pieces are powerful demonstrations of nomadic women’s ability to create an artistic tradition that still resonates with contemporary audiences.”

Anatolian kilims represent a distinct weaving tradition that generates striking, abstract patterns of colors. Woven from wool with a tapestry-weave technique, kilims in the exhibition are up to 14 feet long and feature bold colors and geometric designs passed down through generations.

This exhibition marks the public debut of treasures from the museum’s Murad Megalli collection of 96 Anatolian kilims, acquired by bequest. Mr. Megalli was a GW alumnus, textile collector and business executive. He first encountered kilims through his close friendship with Josephine Powell, a celebrated ethnographer and photographer of Anatolian life. “A Nomad’s Art” includes 36 kilims from his collection, as well as large reproductions of Powell’s photographs capturing the vestiges of nomadic life in Turkey in the 20th century.

The museum will host its 39th annual family festival, Celebration of Textiles, on Sept. 15. The free festival will include artist demonstrations such as weaving, felt and lace making and embroidery. Visitors can also design a mosaic, sample Turkish coffee and watch Turkish dance performances throughout the day. Additional public programs will be held throughout the duration of the exhibition.

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