This rug was a gift and gesture of friendship from the local Muslim community to the City of Greater Bendigo. It was presented to Mayor, Cr Rod Fyffe on behalf of the people of Bendigo at a 2016 'Thank You Bendigo' dinner.
In 2014 approval for a planning application from the Bendigo Islamic Association to build a community centre and mosque in East Bendigo prompted a series of public protests that captured widespread media attention. During this tumultuous period the Council identified the need for a community-wide plan to promote diversity and help address potentially divisive cultural issues. These events led to the COGB becoming the first local government area (LGA) formally accredited under Australia’s Welcoming Cities Standard. Community leaders emerged who wanted to show that the anti-mosque protesters did not reflect the views of the majority of Bendigo residents. The community lead ‘Believe in Bendigo’ movement gained momentum, and the Council and other local organisations joined forces to present a unified message that Bendigo residents do not tolerate racism.
Muslims have made Central Victoria their home since the Goldrush, contributing to the community and the economy for the past 120 years. Traditional Islamic rugs, especially their patterns and motifs are intrinsically linked with the design of the Bendigo Mosque and Bendigo Islamic Community Centre providing important points of reference for the architects of the project. Typically, mosques are linked with specific cultural groups but not in the case of Bendigo where the Muslim community is made up of multi-ethnic groups. This meant the building's design was not fixed to a specific style or cultural iconography but instead needed to encompass many. The small local Muslim community selected a specific Australian architect because of their interest and knowledge of Islamic design and iconography gained through family collection of Islamic textiles.
In thinking about the design of the mosque and community centre the architects wanted to acknowledge the role of Afghans in Australian history, especially tribal Afghans who helped build connections across the interior of Australia between First Nations communities, European settlers and Central Asian migrants. The gift of this Turkmen rugto the Bendigo community thus symbolises collaborative partnerships across faith and cultural groups based on friendship and mutual benefit. A Turkman rug was specifically chosen as it is the pinnacle of nomadic arts of the Islamic world.
It was also important to the architects and the local Muslim community that the gift was a female artistic product as it was mainly a female Muslim architecture team that designed the mosque in Bendigo and there was a desire to select something that celebrated female artistry.
This hand-woven rug is an engsi, made for a woman in preparation for marriage. Design work and weaving is a shared experience, between many generations of women and each rug hold the personal story of the woman it is made for and her family and thus holds deep symbolic meaning. There are often songs and poetry that are recited as the rug is made – helping the makers to memorisze the mathematical structure of the design.
An engsi is put on the doorway to a yurt as part of a wedding ceremony. During the ceremony the groom turns the engsii upside down to check the quality of the rug makers weaving skills. The nomadic lifestyle of Yomut Turkman tribes determines the size of the rug as the loom can’t be carried. Its size is also restricted by the dimensions of the doorway of the yurt. This rug is dated as c 1880 because of the types of patterns used, the use of natural dyes (synthetic dyes were introduced to the area in 1890s) and with the smoother weaving on the back indicating the quality of craftsmanship dating to this time period.
The Yomut engsi rug was made in Turkmenistan c1880 by Yomut Turkmen Tribes people and is designed to fit over the doorway of a yurt during a wedding ceremony. The main field motif is related to Turkoman jewelery design. The women and girls of the tribe spin the wool and design and weave the rugs. The men shear the sheep, dye the wool and clip the rug after it has been woven. The word “Turkoman” is thought to have been derived from Turk-iman, meaning the first nomadic Turkic tribes that began to follow Islam. Dyes used are natural including orange from madder root.