In 2011, ICR produced the exhibit Rugs of Remembrance: Bosnian Weaving in Hartford, displaying hand woven rugs, carpets, and wall hangings made by skilled Bosnian weavers living in Hartford. A special memorial quilt from Bosnia was the centerpiece of the exhibit, loaned by the social justice organization Advocacy Net from its traveling exhibit of rugs and quilts from Bosnia. The opening event featured weaving demonstrations as well as Bosnian music, dancing, and food.
Greater Hartford is now home to over 10,000 Bosnians, many coming here in 2000-2002 as refugees from the war in the former Yugoslavia. For the many widows in the community, continuing to practice their familiar arts of carpet weaving, knitting, and crochet lace helps them to cope with the trauma of the genocide their families suffered. The weavers learned their exquisite skills from family and friends in Bosnia, and many worked for Bosfam, a weaving cooperative established after the war to assist women with income-generating projects.
For seven years, ICR’s Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program has worked with Bosnian artists in Hartford to encourage production and marketing of their exquisite carpets, called çilimi.Our project has helped to improve English skills, involve the weavers in American society, and support their families. Some of the master weavers have been teaching young women in the community to weave, helping to pass on the tradition in their new home. Together they created a special memorial quilt woven with the names of their home towns, in the Bosnian flag colors of yellow, white, and blue.
Along with several other talented immigrant and refugee textile artists, the Bosnian weavers have joined the Sewing Circle Project organized by the Institute for Community Research (ICR) through its Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program. The Sewing Circle assists newcomers to preserve and produce their traditional crafts, and promotes sales through the Hartford Farmers Market and other marketing outlets.
With the Bosnian community having a strong presence in Hartford now, our project has created new opportunities for American audiences to meet these talented artists, learn more about Bosnian culture, and watch them weaving at their looms. Many of the carpets displayed are for sale, with all profits going to the weavers.
Recently we have partnered with Clatter Ridge Farm, whose sheep graze on the grounds of the Hillstead Museum in Farmington CT, to use their high-quality Shetland wool. The silky feel and sturdy quality of these gorgeous rugs comes from the natural wool and the expert weave, equaling the quality of Navajo rugs.
The exhibit was supported by the Aurora Women and Girls Foundation and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. We also thank our friends at Bosfam and Advocacy Net for the loan of the Diaspora Quilt. CCHAP’s participation is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and the Institute for Community Research.