The Doukhobor people are known as “spirit wrestlers” for their willingness to defy governments on behalf of their religious convictions. They immigrated to Canada to escape religious persecution and brought considerable textile skills with them. At their communal farms in Saskatchewan, they processed wool yarn, dyed it with packaged chemical dyes to produce bright hues like those in this carpet, and used it to make clothing and household textiles.
Where was this textile created?
North America: Canada, Western Canada, Saskatchewan, Doukhobor people
Early 20th century
Wool and hemp, knotted pile technique
168 cm x 105 cm
Gift of Madeleine Boucher Harvie
T04.22.4 Textile Museum of Canada
At first glance this rug, made by members of the Doukhobor community, looks like a typically Caucasian one, with its central medallion, loose pile and ram’s horn motifs in the borders. The design and size are roughly right, but the colours are wrong – brighter and more acid than the colours in traditional rugs from Caucasus Mountain regions like Azerbaijan and Armenia. And indeed, the rug does have a connection to the Caucasus region, stemming from the Doukhobor peoples’ sojourn there just before they immigrated to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century.
Considering the major expenditure of time and effort needed to make knotted pile rugs, their production was often a group effort in Doukhobor communities, and the whole family, including children, worked together on the knotting. The finished rug was a premier household possession and a young couple might kneel upon one at their wedding.
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