Discover an Interwoven World

"Interwoven Worlds" exhibits elaborate tapestries and carpets customary to nomadic Turkish tribes and domestic homes. Photo by Brita Helgesen
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Visitors to Flushing Town Hall will find they have stepped into a nomadic Turkish village. Simulated living spaces of nomadic tents complete with hand-woven Turkish carpets and home furnishings are a highlight of the exhibit “Interwoven Worlds: Exploring Domestic and Nomadic Life in Turkey,” running through April 29.

Curated by Alexander Bauer, assistant professor of anthropology at Queens College, and Amy H. Winter, director and curator of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the exhibition showcases textiles from the museum’s permanent collection as well as traditional objects found in Turkish living spaces.

Central to Turkish homes, whether nomadic or settled, are textiles and, in particular, carpets, as reflected in this exhibition. The pieces on view are tapestry-woven rugs called kilims, embroidered flat-weave rugs (cicims), a pair of antique prayer rugs and woven or embroidered items such as saddlebags and bedding. It also includes ancient ceramics, glass and metalwork.

“We tried to reconstruct something that would give visitors a sense of how these people lived and their aesthetic sense and traditions,” said Winter.

The most eye-catching part of the show is the reconstructed dwellings where visitors can actually step inside and see the rugs and objects as they would be in a traditional home.

This includes a yurt, a wood-framed tent used by Turkish tribal cultures and nomadic tribes because of its light weight and easy portability. There is also an Ottoman-style interior that shows design elements like wood paneling and partitioned windows as well as wall hangings and carpets. The structures create a bold impression in the center of the exhibition, and are intended to both educate and entertain. As Winter emphasized, “kids will love it.”

She added that the priority of the show was to represent the range of cultures and tribes, rather than trying to be archeologically authentic and pure. It reflects the range of pieces held in Godwin-Terbach’s collection and also includes an area showing the cross-fertilization of other cultures and empires, including the Byzantine.

“It’s similar in a lot of tribal cultures the way they built and designed or decorated inside the tent,” said Winter. “But the things that they use in each tribe has its own unique pattern and designs.”

In addition to the pieces themselves, the exhibit includes a digital display that allows viewers to browse interior and exterior images of what an Ottoman house would have looked like. Sound recordings, photographs and texts have also been incorporated.

Winter explained that her expertise is in the history of art and archeological study, having done quite a bit of work in ancient art and tribal ethnographics. This includes two other recent shows she has curated specifically on textiles.

The exhibit is part of Queens College’s project “Year of Turkey: Exploring Past, Present, Future” that began in September and runs through June. It includes a series of lectures and seminars by scholars, as well as exhibitions, art installations, and music and dance performances, offering a wide range of events and exhibits that touch on the nation’s history from antiquity to modern times.

In October, Nobel Prize winning novelist Orham Pamuk discussed his writing on life in Turkey as well as the challenges of translating from Turkish to English. On April 18, art historian Walter Denny will discuss the art of Ottoman Istanbul and “Creating a Brand in the Sixteenth Century.” In mid-April, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center will present playwright Ozen Yula’s “For Rent,” a play about the criminal underworld of modern-day Istanbul.

A full calendar of “Year of Turkey” events can be found at

The partnership with the Flushing Town Hall allows the Godwin-Ternbach to show off its extensive collection as it undergoes a renovation. The Queens College museum will reopen in the fall.

“We are trying to partner with more local art institutions and get more audiences involved,” said Winter. “It’s a wonderful venue and a way to reach out further to draw in more audiences to the benefit of both of us.”


Interwoven Worlds: Exploring Domestic and Nomadic Life in Turkey

Through April 29

Flushing Town Hall

137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing

Posted 5:05 pm, April 4, 2012
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