INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON TRADITIONAL CARPETS AND KILIMS IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR DEVELOPING THIS HERITAGE WITH THE CONTINUOUS CHANGES IN THE MARKET, DESIGN, QUALITY

International Seminar on Traditional Carpets and Kilims in the Muslim World: Past, Present and Future Prospects for Developing this Heritage with the Continuous Changes in the Market, Design, Quality and Applied Techniques, organised by IRCICA and the National Agency for Handicrafts (ONA) of the Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft of Tunisia, in cooperation with Mashareq International Establishment (Jeddah) and in collaboration with the International Centre for the Promotion of Crafts (CIPA, Fez), Tunis, 19-25 November 1999.

Within the framework of IRCICA’s "Crafts Development Program in the Muslim World", IRCICA), and the Handicraft National Agency (ONA) of the Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft, Tunis, are jointly organising the First International Seminar on "Traditional Carpets and Kilims in the Muslim World: Past, Present & Future Prospects for Developing this Heritage with the Continuous Changes in the Market, Design, Quality and Applied Techniques," in cooperation with Mashareq International Establishment, Jeddah, and in collaboration with the International Centre for the Promotion of Crafts (CIPA), Fez. The seminar will take place in Tunis between 19 and 25 November 1999. It will address a wide spectrum of topics related to the artistic, practical and developmental aspects of the traditional carpets and kilims sector in different parts of the Muslim world. Thus, it will bring into focus such subjects as methods and techniques applied in carpet and kilim manufacturing, the various schools, styles and designs, inputs of raw materials, the present state and future prospects of carpets and kilims as heritage crafts, the influence of traditional Islamic carpets on European arts, as well as policy issues: various difficulties encountered in the development of this sector, the lack of qualified manpower, the need to preserve the authenticity of these crafts, etc.

Under the general theme, it addressed all aspects of the traditional carpets and kilims sector in different parts of the Muslim world, including the various schools, designs, materials and techniques used, the current status of the sector and future prospects for its development. The participants exchanged views to assess the present state of the sector, the methods applied in their respective countries, and the ways and modalities of developing this craft in the coming decade. Seventy research papers were presented by a group of researchers and carpet and kilim experts from thirty-eight countries in addition to experts and representatives from: UNESCO, International Trade Centre, Geneva; World Crafts Council; International Centre for the Promotion of Crafts (CIPA), Fez; International Secretariat of the World Crafts Council, Kyoto; Heritage and Environment Trust, Cologne; Ghereh International Carpet and Textile Review, Turin, Italy; Hali Carpet Magazine, London; and various institutions, centres and organisations working in this field in the Member States.

In his inaugural address, H.E. Mr. Salaheddine Mouaoui, Minister of Tourism, Leisure and Handicrafts of Tunisia, spoke of the theme of the symposium as one of the national priorities of the Tunisian Government. He added that the traditional crafts sector, of which carpet-weaving represents a major constituent as one of the main pillars of Tunisian heritage, received continued care and special attention through periodical festivals and symposiums as well as publicity in the world exhibitions and markets. He also pointed out that the richness of the Tunisian heritage and its abundance in the area of carpet-weaving constitute an immense civilisational capital which commands admiration. He thanked IRCICA for organising this event.

Prof. Ihsanoglu, Director General of IRCICA, took the floor and commended the Patronage of H.E. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Tunisian Republic over this international event. He expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism, Leisure and Handicrafts and for the Handicraft National Agency for offering to host this event in Tunisia. He also praised and thanks Mashareq International Establishment for joining hands with IRCICA in the implementation of this project and their contributions. He pointed out that IRCICA gave emphasis to the development of crafts in Member States and undertook a comprehensive program to encourage their revival, preservation and development. He added that through this program which is enhanced in collaboration with the ministries and other authorities concerned in the Member States and with regional and international organisations, IRCICA became a focal point and a meeting place for artisans, crafts institutions and specialists working in this field.

The opening session heard the addresses of: the Chairman of Mashareq International Establishment Sheikh Abdul Aziz Kamel; Mr. Indrasen Vencatachellum, representative of UNESCO; Ms. Maria Mercedes Sala, representative of the International Trade Centre (ITC); Mr. Omar Amine Benabdallah, President of World Craft Council; and Mr. Ahmad Ben Yehia, Director of the International Centre for the Promotion of Crafts (CIPA). The seminar recommended, among others, that an international centre of the Traditional Carpet and Kilims in the Muslim World be established in Tunis for the training of craftspeople from Member States. The seminar also stressed the need to make an inventory of old collections of traditional carpets and kilims of the Muslim world which are found in museums and showrooms all over the world.

Among the various events accompanying the seminar, there were: the 17th Tunisian Salon of Creativity in Crafts with two hundred and fifty exhibitors from Tunisia, and an exhibition of masterpieces of traditional carpets and kilims from various regions of the OIC member countries. During the period of the seminar, IRCICA Director General Prof. Ihsanoglu and Mr. Nazeih Maarouf, Head of Crafts Development Program, were received by President Zine Abidin Ben Ali, who commended the efforts of IRCICA. At the closing ceremony, Mr. Chedly Karoui, President-Director General, Handicraft National Agency (O.N.A.), stated that Tunisia would always feel proud of this meeting which gathered eminent specialists and experts from various places of the world. He concluded that Tunisia shall be more than pleased to host the working sessions of the follow-up committee and the training centre of carpets and kilims.

A collection of the papers presented during the international seminar on traditional carpets and kilims in the Muslim World: past, present and future prospects was published under the title Traditional Carpets and Kilims in the Muslim World: Past, Present and Future Prospects.