site.btaCenturies-Old Bulgarian Kilims to Be Exhibited in Paris

Centuries-Old Bulgarian Kilims to Be Exhibited in Paris
Centuries-Old Bulgarian Kilims to Be Exhibited in Paris
A fragment from one of the kilims in the "Stories in Colour" exhibition (Photo by the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Paris)

Centuries-old kilims (flat-weave carpets) will be displayed at the gallery of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Paris between April 18 and June 14, 2024. Titled "Stories in Colour. 350 Years of Bulgarian Kilim Tradition", the boutique exhibition features rare samples of flat-weaves made in traditional kilim centres in several parts of Bulgaria, said the organizers.

All 35 kilims on display are owned by Dutchman Jacob van Beelen and have never been shown abroad. They come from Chiprovtsi (Northwestern Bulgaria), Kotel and Sliven (Southeastern Bulgaria) and Pirot (a town in present-day Serbia which was part of the Bulgarian lands until 1879). 

The event is staged exactly 124 years after Bulgarian kilims were first shown in France, at the 1900 Paris Exposition - one of the first venues outside Bulgaria where Chiprovtsi and Kotel kilims were on show. Kilim manufacturer Hristo Balabanov of Kotel was awarded a silver medal at that world's fair.   

The Bulgarian craft of kilim weaving has never again been shown in France - until now, the organizers say.

The exhibition is part of a project that also includes a bilingual print publication in French and English, featuring 150 never-before-seen photographs and images of Bulgarian kilims and kilim ornaments (also from Van Beelen's private collection) and listing key facts about the history of Bulgarian kilim making and the biggest kilim centres with their specificities. The publication, authored by the collector himself, provides a rare chance to see surviving samples of the Bulgarian kilim tradition from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, as well as individual ornaments, testifying to the makers' craftsmanship, the beautiful colours and high quality of the dyes used, and the fantastic compositions of the Bulgarian kilims.

The book has the same title as the Paris exhibition:  "Des histoires en couleurs. 350 ans de tradition bulgare du kilim / Stories in colour. 350 years of Bulgarian kilim tradition"

The Dutchman, who lived in Kotel next door to the kilim museum from 2008 to 2013 and has resided in nearby Veliko Tarnovo since then, boasts the largest private collection of over 800 ancient Bulgarian kilims. He dreams of establishing a national museum of kilim tradition as a repository of invaluable originals he has found over long years of scouting, to be enjoyed by future generations, the project team says.

Jacob van Beelen told BTA that, as far as he knows, the upcoming publication will be the first book on the Bulgarian kilim tradition in a language other than Bulgarian and will certainly attract a lot of interest in this craft. 

In June, the author will give a lecture at ICOC XV Istanbul (an international conference of kilims and carpets), where he will lobby for a change of the names Şarköy and Manastir by which kilims made in the Bulgarian lands are known among international collectors to names that would reflect their origin (kilims from Chiprovtsi, Pirot, Kotel or the Ludogorie area in the Northeast of the country).

"Stories in Colour" has been initiated by Van Beelen and Dessislava Bineva, Director of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Paris, who produced and organized the event.

The tradition of carpet-making in Chiprovtsi was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014.

The organizers plan to show a part of the exhibition at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in June as a backdrop for a lecture highlighting the preservation of the kilim tradition to the present.

/YV/

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By 02:06 on 22.05.2024 Today`s news

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