Copper craft in Lahij

There are deep and rich traditions of folk art in Azerbaijan, and the art of copper work is no exception.

By Heydar Aliyev Center

Copper craftHeydar Aliyev Center

There are deep and rich traditions of folk art in Azerbaijan, and the art of copper work is no exception. There were once entire cities of copper work with streets dedicated to copper craft. One of such cities was Lahij near the ancient city of Shamakhi.

LahijHeydar Aliyev Center

Lahij, a mountainous settlement situated at an altitude of 1,375 meters on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus and preserving its originality, has the status of being a national historical preserve of the 14th-15th centuries, and is on the International Silk Road International Tourist route, as an original monument of ancient city construction and architectural art.

Architecture of LahijHeydar Aliyev Center

At first glance, Lahij is amazing with its unusual construction and architecture. Its streets are laid with white stones from the Girdiman River. Two and three-storey houses are also built of stone. It attracts tourists not only for being a mountainous settlement of unusual beauty, but also for being a medieval art and trade centre in the Caucasus, where arms and dishes are made of copper and decorated with ornaments.

Lahij is a village and municipality on the southern slopes of Greater Caucasus within the Ismailli Rayon of Azerbaijan. Population is approximately 860 people who speak the Tat language.

Lahij is a notable place in Azerbaijan, with its authentic handicrafts traditions, particularly related to copper. The village's carpet and rug crafts are also well known in Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus. Lahij has an old sewage system (some experts claim that it was built 1000 – 1500 years ago). Due to frequent earthquakes local people have developed sophisticated and authentic construction techniques.

Copper kingdom of AzerbaijanHeydar Aliyev Center

Many household items are made there: various types of containers, cans, setil and other dishes. Due to the number and diversity, these items did not fall behind other items made in the big cities of the time. Lahij is the copper kingdom of Azerbaijan, the centre of the ancient art.

Aghali quarterHeydar Aliyev Center

Copper production in Lahij was primarily in the Aghali quarter, on both sides of the streets, and there were many copper workshops, a “coppersmith market.” Manufactured copper products were sold here, and workshops served as a kind of store. Caucasian handicraft production studies report that in the nineteenth century, the number of workshops in Lahij is estimated to have been more than 200.

Copper craft in the XIX centuryHeydar Aliyev Center

But by the end of the 19th century, the number of workshops decreased dramatically due to the introduction of cheap Russian factory products. Also other arts - blacksmithing, leather craft, arms production – were diminished. Nevertheless, traditional workshop facilities and instruments, the tradition of copper casting, forging and carving are preserved today. The inclusion of Lahij's copper craft into UNESCO’s list will undoubtedly contribute to the preservation of ancient traditions of the Azerbaijani people, handing on to future generations, and socio-economic development of this ancient settlement.

UNESCO - Copper craftHeydar Aliyev Center

“Lahij copper craft” was included in UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage at the 10th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Namibia from November 30 to December 4, 2015.

Film about Copper craftHeydar Aliyev Center

Copper craftsmanship of Lahij is the traditional practice of making and using copperware concentrated in the Lahij community in the Caucasus. The copper-smelting master coordinates the entire process and is accompanied by an apprentice who learns the necessary techniques while helping the master. The coppersmith-hammerer pumps the air into the ovens and hammers the smelted copper into thin plates. A craftsperson then polishes the hammered copper plates and decorates the ready copperware with engravings. This final stage of the process is said to be particularly important as the designs used often have an environmental focus, reflecting the bearer’s traditional knowledge and cultural values. The master is responsible for selling the copperware in the workshops and remunerating the work of the other craftspeople involved.
The tradition is transmitted within families from father to son. Numerous families in Azerbaijan come to buy copperware in Lahij and use it in their daily lives believing it improves the health benefits of food. For artisans, the tradition represents a major source of living and provides a strong sense of identity and community pride. Copper craftsmanship also reinforces family relationships within the Lahij community and is perceived as a clear marker of Lahij identity.

Credits: Story

Mahabbat Mehdiyeva
The Director of Museum Department, Heydar Aliyev Center

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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