In 1996, when the movie Gabbeh by renouned Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was released, literally everybody in Europe, U.S., Canada, Australia, … wanted to have a gabbeh in their home. In a matter of weeks, the price of this humble Persian hand-knotted nomadic carpet increased by as much as 10 times due to high demand.
An interesting question is: what do Gabbeh the movie and gabbeh the carpet have in common. A possible answer, from my perspective, is the human factor.
Gabbeh the movie tells the story of an unfulfilled love woven into the fabrics of a gabbeh. The fingers of the weaver seem to follow not her mind, but her aching heart, thus filling the warp, the weft and the pile of her slowly emerging gabbeh with an element that transcends dimension, substance, color and texture: the human element or factor.
Amazingly enough, despite my many years of occupation, and preoccupation, with carpets, both handmade and machine constructed, I continue to be amazed by the strong presence of this “fifth element” that makes apart a handmade carpet from its machine constructed counterpart, which is otherwise very similar with respect to the other four elements of substance, dimension, color and texture.
The gabbeh fever has long subsided and today gabbehs, together with many other types of handmade carpets, cost little more than some machine made carpets. But that is only the market value that has changed, as the human factor remains present in every handmade piece.
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