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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Influence of Turkic Culture on Mamluk Carpets and the Octagonal Medallion”


Dr. Sumiyo Okumura, Istanbul

The Mamluk Dynasty, originally “slave-soldiers” of Turkic descent, came to power in Egypt in the mid thirteenth century. By the fifteenth century they had established a thriving carpet industry in their capital, Cairo, although some scholars originally thought that these carpets came from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, like Anatolia or Syria. They are characterized by unique octagonal medallions in a minimal color palette, which, when compared with other artistic branches of Mamluk art, are distinguished by having an important place only on carpets. The history of the Mongol and Turkic people, including the Kipchak founders of the Mamluk dynasty, is complex and varied, as they adopted first shamanistic religions, then Buddhism, and subsequently Islam, and migrated through areas of Central Asia and Iran in advance of and eventually together with the waves of Mongol invasions. Dr. Sumiyo Okumura will describe Mamluk carpets, and trace the history of the Mamluks and all of the cultural elements that show how the history and religion of the Turkic weavers, in particular with the use of the octagonal Mandala motif, put their stamp on the character of these carpets, and how the octagonal medallion eventually influenced Anatolian carpets, and passed on to North Africa and Spain through migration routes.

Originally from Kyoto, Japan, Dr. Sumiyo Okumura has spent the past fourteen years as an art historian in Istanbul, researching Turkish and Islamic art, particularly carpets and textiles. In 2003 she received her doctoral degree in Turkish Art History at the Institute of Turcology, Marmara University, and her doctoral thesis, “The Influence of Turkic Culture on Mamluk Carpets” was published by IRCICA (Organization of the Islamic Conference, Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture) in 2004. From 1998 to 2005 she volunteered as an assistant to Associate Prof. Dr. Hülya Tezcan at the Textile Department of the Topkapı Palace Museum, handling and cataloging the extensive carpet, costume and textile collections belonging to 700 years of Ottoman sultans. She served on the Academic Committee for the 2007 ICOC in Istanbul and wrote part of the catalogue, and is presently employed as an art historian at the Turkish Cultural Foundation. Dr. Okumura has published many articles on Islamic textile art, and has also presented papers at several conferences, most recently in Ankara, Turkey on "The Turkic Influence on the Mamluk Bow”. She also recently coordinated an exhibition of kilims, carpets and illuminations by Japanese women residing in Turkey, in the Yıldız Palace, Istanbul. Dr. Okumura invites TMA/SC members to bring rugs and textiles (from any source) with the octagonal medallion motif for show & tell.



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