Objects of Wonder: Marian Bantjes

Objects of Wonder: Marian Bantjes

Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. This article appears in the Winter 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.

This carpet was made by Bedouins—a nomadic tribe of North Africa. My then-husband and I bought it in Luxor, Egypt, in 1989. We visited the carpet shop three times and were served tea as we viewed many, many carpets. Past the tourist crap, past the good tourist pieces, past the contemporary ones, we went further and further into the depths of the shop until we found this carpet and one other we loved. The one pictured here was older and was made with all natural dyes, while the other was bigger but included some artificial dyes.

The sellers hung the older rug on a wall and performed a light trick on it: a whole rack of lights of different temperatures, which they switched to show us how the colors in the carpet changed. While it’s obvious that colors change under different lighting conditions, this was part of the magic of the sale—a three-day journey of discovery and persuasion, with tales being spun for us over more tea as we began the long process of haggling over the price. We laughed over the strange pleasure of it all and still believe we got two exceptional carpets.

handwoven carpet with striped patterns that are predominantly red with some black

Photo by Marian Bantjes.

My ex kept the bigger one, and this smaller, older carpet has hung in my home for decades now. It fills me with wonder over its history: its time spent in a nomad’s tent; its time spent in a dusty shop; the memories it holds of travels with my ex-husband; and yes, how the colors change under different light conditions. The patterns are inconsistent and my eyes wander through them, thinking about meaning and mistake; whose hands made them and what they thought about in the making. I see it every day but never take it for granted, because although I own it, it has never felt really like mine. It belongs to a dwindling tribe on the other side of the world, in the desert sand.

Marian Bantjes is a Canadian graphic artist, designer, and writer. Her work, while variable in style, is usually rationally ornamental and imaginative. She has written (and designed) two books: I Wonder (2010, 2018) and Pretty Pictures (2013), both published by Thames & Hudson.

bantjes.com | @bantjes

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Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft