July 08, 2012
This January, Bootstrap traveled to the Eastern Turkish city of Van to find artisans that weave 'kilims' (flat-woven rugs) authentic to this region of Anatolia. Collaborating with a foundation based in Istanbul, we had made arrangements to see the work of n kilim scholar, Enver Özkahraman. Born in Van, Enver has devoted his life to his passion. He has lectured in museums and universities around the world to create awareness about the age-old Turkish kilim tradition and written a book that serves as the reference on the subject.
Aiming to pass on his extensive knowledge about the subject to the new generation, Enver Bey established a kilim workshop in the city. The workshop re-kindled interest in an ancient craft that used to be the lifeblood of this region in the recent past. As his reputation grew as a teacher, so did Enver Bey's goals: He set up a total of 5 workshops, each with 20-25 women; the workshops became an effective social outlet and an important socio-economic support mechanism.
Enver Bey knows that sustainable development can only be achieved if the incentives are correctly aligned within the local population; that is, if home-grown entrepreneurs are free to create businesses that meet the needs and exploit the competitive advantanges of the local workforce. What better way to achieve this goal than by keeping alive a dying craft by teaching it to a new generation of women artisans, and encouraging them to express themselves through new, modern designs while helping improve their socio-economic position in society?
On October 2011, tragedy struck. A devastating earthquake hit Van, killing more than 600 people and leaving scores of others injured and homeless, with almost all families forced to live in tents because of extensive structural damage to buildings. Three out of five workshops buildings were damaged, but the remaining two are some of the few structures left standing. The importance of these remaining workshops grew, as they became a safe haven and beacon of hope to those remaining.