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"Here," the gun-seller says, "I'll show you."
He opens it up and points the gun into the air. And as he's pointing it into the air, I feel an arm going around
my neck... I think, "Good-bye, family! Good-bye, world!" It's the big, tall afghan man. He pulls me back, takes me
and moves me behind him. Shields me with his body.
"Sometimes, " he says, "these thinds explode."
Charlottesville's Indiana Jones|
continued from page 2
I accept an offer of more tea. (Barodofsky tells visitors that in Turkey, three cups are polite.)
We are talking in the gallery of Barodofsky's Sun Bow Trading Company, on Fourth Street downtown, next to
the Roasted Bean. His finds grace more than just this two-story space, however: Pieces of his collection have
been featured at national centers such as the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., and, locally , in a Bayly
Museum exhibit of yurts - entirely furnished nomadic tent dwellings - from the Khirgiz and Kazak tribes
of Chinese Turkistan.
When he started Sun Bow in 1977, Barodofsky says, it was with the belief that Iranian rugs, although widely
craved, were over-rated as art. And wildly priced. Bur Turkish nomadic textiles were at that time largely
True, the Iranian (Persian) rugs were undoubtedly more finely, intricately woven, and had taken longer to make
than the varieties produced in Turkish territory. But that had little to do with their quality as works
"I was concerned with textile art," Barodofsky explains, "concerned with the resonance a piece sets up
with its owner. I wanted people who bought rugs to be touched by what they were looking at, living with. I wanted
their lives to change."
Now Turkish rugs are in great demand. Barodofsky's friend from Konya have made millions. But the prospect of immense
wealth was not Barodofsky's prime motivation.
"This business is an art project. We make real things - not made-for-sale rugs - available and affordable
to real people. some traders build their business on selling to Sotheby's and Christie's; I build my business
on selling to local people - so that they will have collections, will want to feed their collections, interest their
friends, et cetera, et cetera. Because I want this stuff to be around in 100 years."
Upstairs, in a private room, Barodofsky keeps what he proudly describes as "the single largest collection
of camel decorations in the world."
And here and there around the gallery, a number of toy stuffed dromedaries can be spotted.
Does Barodofsky himself ever, by any chance, travel by camel?
"Oh, I don't like camels - they're ungainly, they're nasty. I much prefer a Land Rover. Nothing beats a good
Land Rover - driving across the desert with air conditioning, listening to the Rolling Stones.
They were shelling the border on the day we'd planned to cross into Afghanistan, and my friends in the
Mujaheddin (Afghan freedom fighters), they didn't want to go across. I thought it would be neat - set foot
in Afghanistan, walk around, have a cup of tea. But my friends said: "If you get killed, it will be bad
So we didn't go.
Peshawar is an ancient city - it was one of the "jewels" of the silk route - and the business center is all
twisting, narrow streets. Exotic - like a bazaar. But it's also a wild-west town, Peshawar. At night in our hotel,
we could hear gunfire - but just because there's a gunshot somewhere doesn't mean there's a bullet for you. I had
that attitude; I felt very safe there, very protected.
There's a tribal area outside of Peshawar, a place known as Barda. In Barda, everyone's armed, everyone's running around
with Chinese and Russian guns. And there are lots and lots of little shacks where they make and sell firearms.
Now I'd heard abouth this place, and I wanted to see it. So I walk into one of these little gun stores,
and greet the guys inside. They ask about my camera, and I tell them I'm a journalist (while I'm in Peshawar Im
writing and article for the Oriental Rug review). They're impressed, quite excited. I ask them to tell me something about
their guns, whether they make them or if they're imported, what prices are, so on. The owner, he wants to sell me a
pen-gun. he shows it to me: it looks like a fountain pen, but it shoots a 22-caliber shell.
"How much?" I ask.
I'm not interested - what am I going to do with a pen-gun? But I say: "How does it work?"
Now, as we've been talking, a whole crowd of men has gathered around us, watching. They're getting closer and closer, and one
of them is really big - close to 7 feet tall, and wide, not fat. Very strong, very imposing, very serious man. He's
weaving the outfit of the Mujaheddin.
And he's staring at the back of my neck.
"oh, God," I'm thinking, "I've just bought it. Really bought it."
But there's no way out. So I continue. I say "How does this gun work?"
"Here," the gun-seller says, "I'll show you."
He opens it up, steps outside the store, and points the gun into the air. And as he's pointing it into the air, I feel an
arm going around my neck...
I think, "Good-bye, family! Good-bye, world!"
It's the big, tall afghan man. He pulls me back, takes me and moves me behind him. Shields me with his body.
"Sometimes," he says, "these things explode."
There comes a pause, for dramatic effect. Then Barodofsky makes h is commentary: "When you are a guest of a warrior people,
you are protected. That tall Afghan man, he was extending guest rights to me: He put me under his protection... I've never
felt so protected in my life."
The design of one of the longer rugs on the wall catches my attention. Afghan, he tells me. But there was something puzzling
about its shapes - geometric, yet oddly asy mmetrical. Were these perhaps stylized onions with flattened tops? No - they
seemed to be almost mechanical...
Woven by an Afghan nomad woman of the Belouch tribe, this type of textile is known as a "victory rug," Barodofsky
explains. "The nomads put in their rugs the things they see in their life."
So these mechanical onions, are they really - helicopters?
"Yeah," says Barodofsky. He unrolls another rug, more explicit. Now, it is obvious: "Grenades, ant-personnel mines, tanks,
helicopters, rocket-launchers, convoy trucks - it's the stuff that they see."