Arts & Entertainment

Damascene brocade on verge of collapsing in war-torn Syria

By Rania Zanoun

Damascus, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- The generations-old art of weaving Damascene brocade is in danger of extinction due to the war that has ravaged Syria since 2011 and forced many of artisanal masters to flee the country.

“Before, 40 years ago, more than 2,000 people worked in the brocade, today it’s only me and Mr. Mohamed,” says Ahmed Shakaki, as he weaves threads of silk on his old loom at his workshop.

“We have asked the concerned authorities to help prevent this craft from disappearing,” the 60-year-old adds.

Shakaki, who has been weaving brocade for four decades, passes threads to his assistant Mohamed Rankoussi at the workshop located in a handicraft market, where these fabrics that are considered one of the most expensive in the world are being exhibited.

Damascene brocade weaving dates back 3,000 years ago, when silk threads were imported from China and Damascus was located on the ancient Silk Road route, the Syrian Handicrafts company’s operation manager, Ruba Salim, tells Efe.

Rankoussi, a 30-year-old who studied this tradition for three years in Damascus, explains that “what distinguishes the Damascus brocade from the Chinese and the Indian is its drawings and engravings that come from the Damascene tradition.”

While displaying some of the piled up rolls of cloth, Rankoussi said that the damask is characterized by geometric motifs inspired by the designs of the Umayyad Mosque in the Syrian capital, also it is made with images of roses, hazelnuts, butterflies, or birds.

These rich fabrics are used in the making of curtains, upholstery, wedding or evening dresses and their most common colors are blue, white and red.

Nowadays, the young artisan explains, the damask is woven on Jacquard looms, a machine that was invented two centuries ago by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the French city of Lyon.

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