Thursday, 19 April 2018
A Place to Remember

Erbil’s Kurdish Textile and Cultural Museum

Inside Erbil’s ancient citadel of Arbela, there is a warm, comfortable haven of Kurdish culture that beckons one to walk inside and learn more about the people in the region.

The newly renovated Kurdish Textile and Cultural Museum was originally a home that was rebuilt in 1939 by a wealthy merchant in Erbil named Hashim Debagh. Inside it, on the eastern side of the South gate, the walls are covered in traditional and colorful handmade Kurdish carpets. The impressive collection is complemented by small exhibits throughout the rest of the two-story space, displaying other integral parts of Kurdish culture, from hats, clothing and accessories, to daily life, tools and even what the inside of a traditional Kurdish dwelling looked like in the past. The woven arts shown in the space are from both nomadic and settled tribes in the Erbil region.

Lolan Sipan, a Swedish Kurd and textile and Kurdish culture enthusiast, created this museum in 2004 after filling the space with his collection of Kurdish rugs, numbering now at more than 400, that are on display and in storage. The goal of this museum is to “preserve the Kurdish cultural heritage and promote the art of the Kurdish tribes and an attempt to develop interest in Kurdish weaving so that this rapidly vanishing culture and its remarkable art will not be lost, but revived and even developed.”

Moving through the museum, different motifs and dyes are explained on the walls amidst an air that smells of sweet and dusty history. Sometimes it took up to a whole season to make a single rug due to factors such as migration, as well as the availability of raw materials and dye. The use of natural dye was largely replaced by artificial dyes in the 1960s, but still the traditional art of weaving by hand remains a testament to a craft that is believed to contain the stories of the Kurdish people’s past.

Though textile making by Kurdish people has largely disappeared since the 1980s, Sipan is dedicated to preserve and invigorate the region’s past to move forward in the future.

Contact information
+964-66-25 11 660
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Text by Melissa Tabeek
Photos by Osie Greenway