Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum’s collection

Karabakh horse paintings, artist and photographer Dace Strausa

Exhibition opening at July 28, Year 2023

Cognition thrives in an open environment. Open world, open space, open heart. The interaction of people and cultures, contact with nature and living environment promotes exchange of ideas, education, research and creativity. Animation, portability, meeting-mobility, a long-known form of knowledge transfer in the field of education and culture.

Gulbene district has been the starting point for innumerable kilometers long travels of our master of applied arts Jūlijs Straume (1874-1970).

Mobility, movement in the life of Jūlijs Straume meant both physical overcoming of mountain peaks and the path to outstanding professional achievements. While working at the Caucasian Folk Art Committee in Tiflis (now – Tbilisi, Georgia), Straume repeatedly participated in ethnographic expeditions in the Caucasus region, crossing valleys and mountain ridges, getting to know and studying the traditional art of the peoples of the Caucasus region. Participation in expeditions took the outstanding master to Azerbaijan. While studying and drawing there, copying traditional Persian rugs, the artist preserved the local weaving tradition for the next generations.

How long does it take to cover a distance of 2000 km? What to put in a travel bag? What inconveniences will you have to overcome on the long journey? The answer to these questions will be given by the exhibition “On the way to Peaks”, which will encourage you to think about the importance and various manifestations of knowledge, and mobility, leaving room for the new, creative, without forgetting the old, traditional. Imagining the process of an ancient expedition in mighty mountains…

Within the exhibition, we invite you to follow the expeditions of Jūlijs Straume, equipped by 16 collection items of the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum and Dace Štrausas`s excellent Karabakh horses.

Have a good trip!

Carpet weaving is one of the Azerbaijan’s most ancient arts. Azerbaijan’s favourable climate and convenient geographical conditions positively influence the agriculture and development of cattle-breeding. In Azerbaijan, local population, who seasonally migrated from highland summer pastures to lowland winter camps, was traditionally involved in cattle breeding. Fornomadic lifestyle it was essential to follow the carpet-weaving traditions. Since ancient times, various household carpet products have accompanied delicate and colourful pile- and flat-woven carpets made in Azerbaijan.

Sixteen carpet products from different regions of Azerbaijan from the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum’s collection are featured in the exhibition. Among them there are the most widely used household items such as mafrash (a carpet valise for the storage and transport of bedding and clothing); khurjun (a valise consisting of two parts); heyba (a small prototype of khurjun); chul (a horse or camel cloth); lamagabaghi (an interior decoration); duz torbasi (a salt bag); gashigdan (a spoon bag); chanta (a bag); camel decoration; jorab (socks); dastarkhan (a tablecloth), and jejim (a small flat-woven rug). It is impossible to imagine the lives of past generations without them. With each passing year, carpets production developed and expanded aiming to enhance living conditions.

Carpet products, produced mainly in flat-woven techniques and woven with high-quality, bright, soft, handspun, and naturally dyed wool yarns, fulfilled people’s demands completely; they bore such features as lightness, portability, durability, and multi – functionality, making them cherished in people’s daily lives. Along with the day-to-day life, carpet products were traditionally irreplaceable. For instance, they were included in brides’ dowries. For many centuries, along with routine housework, women engaged in carpet weaving and embroidery, involving their little daughters since a bride had to make most of her dowry items herself – that indicated her skills, aesthetical taste, and patience. Besides carpets, a bride to-be made aragchin and tasak (skull caps), kulah (headdress), jorab (socks), tumanbaghi (a cord for fastening trousers at the waist), chul, khurjun, heyba, and other items for her groom, as well as for his family members. Although carpet products were not woven for sale, they could be gifted or exchanged for something else.

Triptihs, gleznas, Karabahas zirgi, māksliniece Dace Štrausa

Karabakh horse paintings, artist and photographer Dace Strausa

Dace Strausa photographer, painter, owner of Dace Strausa Art

Studied at Jelgava Secondary School No. 2, Latvian Academy of Agriculture, Moscow Timiryazev Agriculture Academy, Faculty of Zooengineering.

Lives in Porvoo, Finland.

About the artist:

Perhaps, the place where you were born matters. My birth home had a shared yard with a horse stable. So, I was around and on horses from the time I was a little girl. They were horses destined for working in forests — true giants of beasts, especially from the point of view of a tiny little person. Some of them happily accepted me and did not resent my efforts to climb on their backs, but there were others who soon became rather irritated with my persistent pestering. Spending time amongst such magical animals did not leave me unaffected. And so, it became something that, in its various forms, has fascinated and influenced me throughout my life — from my education in horse-breeding, self-training in painting (apart from the preparatory courses at the Art Academy of Latvia) and photography courses with Māris Kundziņš to my professional endeavours in horse-breeding, equestrian sport, horse-breeding management at the Latvian Horse-Breeders’ Association etc., and horse painting, which has been my main occupation for decades and still is today.

It so happened that the path of my life took me to Azerbaijan for three whole years, where I had a great opportunity to get acquainted with the diverse culture of Azerbaijan and, of course, the Karabakh horse breed, which is very ancient and shrouded in legends. You could even say that I fell in love with these very beautiful, golden, graceful animals. Now, that I have been living back in Finland for four years, the Karabakhs are still my main inspiration.

While living in Azerbaijan, I painted some 30 works and then, with the support of the then Latvian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Juris Maklakovs, and the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, I had a solo exhibition at the Museum Centre in Baku. Later, when I was no longer living in Azerbaijan, the Latvian Embassy, headed by Vija Buša (Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Latvia in Azerbaijan), organised two more exhibitions of my work — one in the Old City of Baku, the other in Shusha, recently liberated from the Armenians. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to show my Karabakh horse paintings in Latvia at the Gulbene Municipality History and Art Museum.