This past Saturday, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California hosted Yaser Al Saghrji, during their September meeting. Yaser is an expert on Kurdish Flatweaves of Afreen Syria. Using a slideshow of photos taken from the region, Yaser's introduced the group to the weavers of Afreen with a brief history of the people, and how their environment has impacted the weavings they produced through the materials, tools, dyes, techniques, and symbols that they employed. This is an especially small region in the north of Syria, where they've had a longtime tradition of weaving colorful flat-woven kilims. These kilims were woven in colored panels with whimsical cicim-type decorations, and assembled into multi-panel rugs. Unfortunately with new technology and modernization the collapse of traditional weaver methods gave way to machinery that produce the same work. During the slide show he described a traditional Kurdish home and how it dictated the functionality of the rugs, and reviewed the various types of kilims and carpets. Each type of Afreen weaving was displayed and discussed, ending with the factors that caused the weavings from Afreen to come to a halt by the early 1950s.
According to his bio, Yaser Al Saghrji was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and has a degree in English literature from Damascus University. Since 1996 he has been the owner of Yana Kilims in Damascus, specializing in tribal flatweaves of the rug-producing countries. In 2003 Yaser co-founded the not for profit Alwan Afreen to study the feasibility of establishing a weaving revival project, and to collect and research weavings from Afreen for the purpose of publishing a book. He also published an article in the May/June 2006 issue HALI Magazine on these weavings.