On Instagram, I encountered the page of Mohammed Elias Amiri. He uses his page, which is called ‘Central Asian Textiles,’ to sell all kinds of pieces from central Asia. I asked him about his background story:
Dear Felix van den Belt,
First, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for your time and interest in my collection, as well as giving me the opportunity to give you a background history on our business and the collector items we are dealing, that my late father started almost 50 years from now.
Would you describe yourself as a collector, reseller, or otherwise? What is the origin of these activities?
I would start by saying that my father was a collector and reseller of old Afghan and Central Asian textiles and so am I now. My late father was a high school teacher by profession, but as part of his hobby, he had also started doing research on old afghan collector items like Textiles, Rugs, etc. He didn’t know that this hobby would become his profession. He was continuing his teaching profession during the morning and was attending the shop in the afternoon.
What is your most special story of a certain textile piece? By that, I don’t mean as in age, or value. I mean: was there a particular piece that you obtained from a local village inhabitant? Or, perhaps you once traveled to a certain location and met an old friend who sold you a piece?
In 1984 I started Grade 1 at the age of six at (Istaqlal High School) and it was adjacent to my dad’s shop, and I used to go to his shop after school.
While being in the shop every day after school I gradually developed an interest in learning about textiles, rugs, and antiques in particular and used to keep questioning my father; what are they, where they come from, how much they cost, etc.
I remember one day, if I’m not mistaken, I was 10 or 11 years old, Dad went out and left me alone in the store (Kabul was a safe place, it wasn’t scary like today to leave a 10-year-old child alone in the store). Then, an old lady entered the store and asked me about my father’s whereabouts. I told her he’s gone and he’ll be back in a few hours. When I asked her what I could do for her, she said, “I brought an IKAT piece to sell, but I’m not sure how long it will take for your dad to come back.’’ Then I asked her if I could see it. When I saw the IKAT, I really liked it because it was an old beautiful piece from Uzbekistan or Afghan Uzbek tribes living in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. I knew how much it would cost. I collected my courage and asked for the price. The lady was a bit shocked when I interacted with a child aged 10 or 11. In the end, I made the deal with her for about $100 and bought it.
My father used to leave his keys with me, whenever he was going out of the shop, so I had access to the safe box we had in the shop and paid the lady and she left. I was very much excited about what I had bought, but at the same time, I was worried and scared too about dad’s possible negative reaction towards this deal. When dad returned later, I brought the IKAT and showed him and told him the whole story behind this deal and asked him his opinion.
I took a breath of relief when he started admiring my courage and told that “it’s not important what you have paid on this, what really matters is that you dared to buy it.” So, we sold that IKAT at around USD 300 after a couple of days.
I was so happy that I cracked the first deal of my life and made almost 200% profit on it. Dad said: ‘’this is your first deal, the money is yours, keep it separate and keep investing in things that you think they are worth it.’’ That purchase has given me enough confidence that I have been in the business ever since.
Where are you located?
Dad started the business in 1970 at chicken street Kabul-Afghanistan until the fall of the Dr.Najibullah government in 1992. We migrated to Peshawar- Pakistan and rented a shop in Shinwari Market in Peshawar city and remained there until 2004. In 2004 we returned to Kabul Afghanistan with family and reopened the shop on chicken street Kabul and we are in business until today. I lost my father in 2015 after he fought the deadly disease of cancer for 3 years.
Could you give us a little more background on most of these textiles? Where do most of these textiles originate from?
The textiles we buy and collect are mostly originated from central-Asia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and from Northern Provinces of Afghanistan where Uzbek and Turkmen tribes live.
On what characteristics do you select them?
When it comes to characteristics, we are very picky in our purchases of these pieces, we choose to only buy those pieces that have a past and are loved by our customers, as well as the ones I like. As you know there are several things to buy and resell and make money in the market but personally I prefer to buy or in other words to invest in things that I like and I have a little knowledge of it and have demand in the collector market. I still have collector’s items in my collection dating back to the ‘90s and beyond.
Mohammad Elias Amiri