Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Albania is a cultural crossroads. Its history is rooted in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It has been part of the Republic of Venice and part of the Ottoman Empire. It has maintained its own identity and language in spite of many occupiers. Like many of its neighbors, it also has a rich weaving tradition influenced by hundreds of years under Ottoman rule. However, the knowledge of the old ways of this craft is quickly dying out. There are splits in knowledge and documented information between pre-communist Albania and Communist Albania and post-Communist Albania.
In the mid twentieth century when Albania was secretive and closed country, large amounts of kilims and carpets were being made by hand for export in factories. ‘Traditional Albanian’ designs were made, as well as copies and interpretations of Persian design styles. Factory designs for rugs and kilims were centralized in the capital Tirana. Weavers who were actively employed in this now defunct factory were interviewed for this paper as well as research conducted in the National Albanian Archives Textile collection. A fractured story emerges where traditional knowledge and craft is dying. Symbols and their meanings have become confused and conflated. The former dictatorship skewed the very little documentation of the traditional weaving around the country. The national collection is very uneven due in part to this legacy.