The Eloquent Carpet

The Eloquent Tree

The Eloquent Carpet by Bahram Beyzai is the third episode of Persian Carpet (2008) exploring the motif of Waq Waq Tree (Wakwak Tree) in Persian carpet through Shahnameh.

The movie begins with a quotation from the filmmaker

A Rare, woven painting, Hanged and used as a mat long before. It originates from an amazing tree, Shah-Nameh has called it the “Speaking-Tree”. Its archaic name is Vaque (or rather Vagh). It’s the ancient Goddess of Speech!

Bahram Beyzai

The Eloquent Carpet begins with a face of Khorshid Khanoum (Female Sun is popular motif in Persian art depicting a round face woman with an arch-like unibrow over languished eyes). Next, camera shows a series of still shots of different illustrations of heroic figures and battles in Shahnameh on a large carpet.

In the following sequence, while the camera is tilting down on a Persian Miniature of Eskandar (Alexander the Great) contemplates the Talking Tree, a female voice (Mozhdeh Shamsai) narrates the same story from Shahnameh. In this part (Sekandar Sees the Speaking Tree), Ferdowsi writes the story of Alexander and his encounter with the strange speaking tree,

“Victorious king, there is a marvel here, a tree that has two separate trunks together, one of which is female and the other male, and these splendid tree limbs can speak. At night the female trunk becomes sweet smelling and speaks, and when the daylight comes, the male speaks.”

Ferdowsi (Shahnameh: The Epic of the Kings)

As the narrative goes on, we see various Persian carpets with “speaking tree” elements in panning, titling and close-ups.  

Wak Wak Tree
Persian Miniature – Timurid: Shiraz, c.1430

In the next scene, the camera shows a woman, wearing a nomadic colorful dress, from behind weaving carpet on a medium size vertical carpet loom while we hear a series of indistinguishable words, like whispering prayers. What comes next are the series of common animal images on Persian carpet accompanied with their natural sound. The animals are animated in the process of creation. Although we see them in still fixed close-ups, they are alive.  Once again we hear the female narrator reciting Persian verses prophesying the death of Sekandar (Alexander). As she speaks, we hear thunderbolts accompanied by rotation of fully-made carpets.  

Do not puff yourself up with greed; why torment your soul in this way? … You have seen many things that no man ever saw, but now it’s time to draw rein…Death will come soon: you’ll die. In a strange land, with strangers standing by. The stars and crown and throne and worldly glory, are sated with Sekandar and his story.

Ferdowsi (Shahnameh: The Epic of the Kings)
The Eloquent Tree 2007

The eloquent tree episode ends with series of tilting up on Persian carpets. Last but not least, the Persian miniature of Eskandar (Alexander the Great) contemplates the Talking Tree is shown as the final shot.  

Beyzai Perspective

The Eloquent Carpet or Speaking Carpet by Bahram Beyzai, as always, takes a historical mythological perspective. One of the recurrent and crucial element in world mythology is a “Tree”. We all heard about the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of knowledge from holy books. As a mythologist, however, Beyzai dips into ancient strange eloquent tree way before emergence of Islam in the Middle East. A unisex speaking tree with the power of prophesy, an oracle in figure of a tree . One that warns Alexander, the Great, and he proudly paid no heed. Accordingly, Alexander story finds a way into Persian Literature. Take Nizami’s Eskandar-Nameh or The Romance of Alexander the Great as a shining example. And the eloquent tree appears as one of the important features of Persian Carpet. So, Bahram Beyzai once more explores and shows the roots of Persian art in Persian history and mythology, despite Islamization of Iran.

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The 3D Carpet

The-3D-Carpet

The 3D Carpet by Rakhshan Banietemad is the second episode of Persian Carpet (2008) seeking the mastermind behind the 3D carpet based on Shah Mosque portal. The movie begins with a quotation from the filmmaker

Carpet, Art, Iran, Carpet is the art of Iranians.

Rakhshan Banietemad

A Grandiose Claim

On an answering machine a man suggests the director, Rakhshan Banietemad, to make her short film about an unprecedented 3D carpet designed by Mr. Ahmadi. The filmmaker invites him to an interview in Tehran to know ins and outs of this masterpiece. This seventeen-year-old boy claims that he has come up with the 3D carpet pattern based on the entrance of Shah Mosque, in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan. Showing the different pictures of completed carpet on laptop, Mr. Ahmadi is explaining the invention of carpet loom, pattern and procedure of its completion.

The 3D Carpet Film
Mr. Ahamdi explaining the 3D Carpet to Rakhshan Banietemad

In order to verify his claim, Banietemad asks Mr. Heshmati, a carpet expert, to question him more about the carpet. Initially, he is surprised to see the pictures because he knows nearly all carpet weavers and dealers in Isfahan, but he has never heard about this 3D carpet. In a dialogue, she seeks the reason behind his quest,

Banietemad: Why did you decide to make this carpet, since you have never done any carpet designing before?

Mr. Ahmadi: (Smoking) I have rarely designed a carpet, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t know it.  I am an ambitious person.    

A New Claim from Isfahan

Mr. Ahmadi invites her to Isfahan to see the carpet with her own eyes. The voice over narrator, the director herself, informs us that she receives another phone call from Isfahan which changes the plan. The female voice says

Mrs. Banietemad, there seems to be a problem regarding your short film project. The real designer his carpet is my father, Mr. Akbar Zarrinnaghse who live in Isfahan.

A female voice on answering machine
Persian Carpet 2008
Mr. Zarrinnaqshe in Isfahan

As the camera shows the view of si-o-se-pol Bridge in Isfahan, the filmmaker tells us that she couldn’t find the name of Mr. Ahamadi in any of her research. Next, at Mr. Zarrinnaqshe painting institute, Banietemad asks him how he designs the carpet. He replies,

This pattern, my knowledge about this kind of painting, particularly Shah mosque portal and its interior, could have outlined with computer. But, I did it according on its old style in Safavid Time, imaging then once the portal of Shah Mosque is completed, they have asked for the exact carpet plan. I can’t say anything about the carpet, because I haven’t seen it complete yet.

Mr. Zarrinnaqshe

The Mastermind Behind the 3D Carpet

The narrator continues that he doesn’t know Mr. Ahamdi either and the mastermind behind this carpet is only Mr. Omrani, not anyone else. To see him, they drive to Dehno village in Isfahan. At his house, she asks the reason behind this carpet weaving from him which he answers,

The honest answer is that I don’t know. Do you know why? We have a wisdom, an imagination, and a memory. The imagination fools the wisdom. While the wisdom says it is impossible, the imagination says go ahead, who says it is possible.

Mr. Omrani
Portal Shah Mosque
Portal Shah Mosque, Isfahan

In addition to his husband comment, Mrs. Omrani says, “It takes four years to weave this carpet with the help of 14 weavers including me. We weaved the bottom blue tiles three times, each takes nearly five hours to do. But, he shows up saying it doesn’t match exactly with the real blue tiles of the mosque”. Banietemad asks Mr. Omrani to watch Mr. Ahmadi’s claim on a video cassette. He tells that he has heard the voice of man, but never seen him. At first, he is surprised, but he bursts into tears as to see him claiming the invention of this 3D carpet. Mr. Omrani has told about this carpet to several people in Carpet exhibitions eagerly.

The 3D Carpet movie
Mr. Omrani and His wife

In order to prove his claim, he brings out the 3D carpet out of the basement to show it an open space to the film crew. Mr. Omrani set a meeting with Mr. Ahmadi, but he never shows up, in addition to turn off his mobile phone.

I wish there would be a place where art students, architects, sculptures, university professors just visit this carpet. Show it in western countries, Europeans and America. The carpet belongs to Iran.

Mr. Omrani’s Wish
Shah Mosque 3D Carpet
Portal Shah Mosque 3D Carpet

Mr. Ahmadi’s absent leaves his grandiose claim vague and ambiguous for the director. She convinces herself that the creation of this 3D carpet was the dream of that smart boy. The 3D carpet of Shah Mosque reruns to basement in hope of a show exhibition or a buyer. For the last time, she tries to contact Mr. Ahmadi , but his phone is off.

Rakhshan Banietemad Perspective

In the second episode of Persian Carpet (2008), Rakhshan Banietemad sets off on a quest to discover the genius behind the Shah Mosque 3D Carpet. In fact, she is putting forward the idea of plagiarism in hand-made carpet industry in Iran. Her journey allows us to see the fake carpet weaver and the genuine one. The humble originator has showed his creative art in several places. In place of gaining admiration, he remains unknown in his home, whereas the imitators and plagiarizers brazenly brag about their craftsmanship and ingenuity. The Shah Mosque 3D Carpet has been kept in the owner’s basement for nearly two years and at the end of the film returns to basement again. The mystery of creator is solved; however, the carpet, a masterpiece to be looked at, goes back to shadows in hope of true admirer or carpet collector.    

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Nomads Carpet

Nomads Carpet

Nomads Carpet by Behrouz Afkhami is the first episode of Persian Carpet (2008) depicting Qashqai Nomads Carpet, Gabbeh in Iran. The movie begins with a quotation from the filmmaker,

Persian Carpet, a world of nuances, full of imagination…repeating trees, streams and blossoms…A utopia taken from Iranian spirit

Behrouz Afkhami

Nomads Carpet episode begins with the group dancing of Qashqai Nomad in Zagros Mountains where women in multi-color hand-made dresses moving up and down colorful handkerchief.

Qashqai Nomad Dance
Qashqai Nomad Dance

With the soft bell’s tinkle, a female voice-over narrator (Marjan Shirmohammadi) begins telling the story of Nomads Carpet known as Gabbeh by introducing the biggest nomads carpet producer and exporter in Iran: Gholamreza Zollanvari. A self-made businessman who has been working in Iran carpet for nearly 60 years. The narrator tells us in brief how his tough journey to Kamfiruz, in Shiraz, in his childhood serves as a starting point for his long, successful rewarding career. The camera shows him getting out of SUV car and his greeting with the locals. While he was offering a cup of tea sitting in the black nomadic tent, the narrator recounts his life-changing tale,

He was sent to bring two pieces of Persian rugs in freezing winter of Kamfiruz by order of his father. But, the bitter snow of engulfed him for almost a week.

Gholamreza Zollanvari

Gholamreza Zollanvari is one of the richest businessman in Iran carpet industry. He is famous for introducing and distributing Gabbeh to the world. Starting with small business, he has now developed into a carpet tycoon, promoting nomad carpet and supporting and improving local economies of Qashqai Tribes in Iran.  

Gholamreza Zollanvari

Carpet Weaving and Economics

The voice over narrator continues that over 30,000 people are now weaving carpet for him and thousands are working in other sections of carpet industry such as Cotton spinning, Dye house, margining etc. The camera, then, shows the close-up of female carpet weavers exposed on the carpet looms they are working on, as the Persian folklore music is playing on. Next, it focuses on male workers in the post-weaving procedure.

The camera cuts into a pretty large carpet shop, full of piles of carpets overlapping each other. In the series of right and left pans showing heaps of carpet, the narrator complains about the fake Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian carpet in international bazaar.

Gabbeh
Nomads Carpet

With emergence of unauthentic carpet makes the struggle harder for authentic nomad carpet sellers in world market. The fake carpet might be cheaper, but the vivifying childlike spirit of nomads generates diversity in colors and creativity in patterns. Despite all the problems, Nomads carpet is still the most popular carpets in the world. The film ends with series of camera’s zoom outing different Persian carpet patterns.

Director’s Perspective

In the First Carpet episode of Persian Carpet (2008), Behrouz Afkhami focuses on the nomads carpet and its current marketing situation. In fact, he depicts the origin and the procedure of weaving carpet within the Qashqai Nomads, but never deals with the elements featuring a typical nomad carpet. His perspective, I think, is simple and cursory when it comes to one of the nomadic handicrafts which, according to his claim, embodies “a world of nuances” and “Iranian spirit”.

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