|Antique Qashqai, circa 1900|
|I am talking to Fatimeh and her sister about difficulties of getting row materials, dyes and process of weaving|
When I visited the nomads of Iran, I saw that these people had adapted their traditional lifestyles to fit the demands and conditions of contemporary urban society. Animals had in some cases been replaced by trucks, woven saddle bags had given way to sewn together pieces of fabric, crops were being cultivated in rented plots, and children were attending schools in towns and cities. At the same time, these innovations were often carried out in tandem with traditional cultural expression of the nomads – the daily walk with the herd to higher land, the spinning of wool and weaving of kilims and carpets, the long peaceful afternoons spent in the tent, spinning wool, chatting and smoking.
For the past few decades, nomads have had less access to natural plants from which to make vegetable dyes, so merchants have tended to buy natural dyes from the market to give to nomads who have settled in houses in the villages so that they can weave specifically ordered carpets. Nomadic women now weave as contractors, and their products are for sale rather than for their own use. They still carry their own traditional designs, though these are sometimes varied according to merchants’ specifications. Merchants like Zolanvari asked the nomads to create landscape designs featuring animal figures, which were woven with vibrantly coloured vegetable dyed wool to achieve a bold and modern effect. These rugs became known as Gabbeh rugs, and quickly became very popular in the western market. In pre-settlement nomadic cultures, Gabbeh rugs were entirely functional, being produced for use as mattresses. They were made with uncoloured wool and they had very coarse knots, unshaved pile, and minimal designs. Today those rugs are made predominantly for use in western homes as decorative works of art and floor coverings.
Under the shade of the trees next to the tent, Fatimeh and her younger sister are weaving a colorful kilim. There are only two months left of their summer camp, and they are trying to finish it so they can take it down from the loom before the migration to warmer areas for the winter. Fatimeh has spun and dyed the wool, which was gathered from the spring shearing. She told me that now most dyes are purchased from the bazaar, because of lack of availability of natural dyes from the fields. Madder and Jasheer (a fennel-like plant) are rarely seen in the mountains these days. Fatimeh is creating the design as she weaves it, and her younger sister is sitting on the other side of the loom mirroring her sister’s work.
5. Market gardening
Yasaman spends some time each day during the summer vacation learning weaving from her grandmother, and she loves visiting relatives who still live in tents in the mountains. Yet she also enjoys being in the city and going to school. Her sister Maryam who is thirteen loves weaving carpets and wants to weave her own design one day. Maryam remembers her nomadic life more clearly than does Yasaman, and claims she would have been happy in either way of life. Maman bozorg (their grand mother) is unhappy in the city and worries about the young boys who are torn between two lifestyles; she is anxious about them getting involved in drugs and crime. She is happy that the girls are staying at home and weaving carpets in their leisure time. The women seem to maintain links with their nomadic lifestyle even in the city, through their clothing and carpet weaving, but the boys have no connection with nomadic lifestyles while they live in the city.
7. Spinning Wool
|Qashqai sisters spinning wool at their afternoon tea time.|
|It is sad to see that cloth bags are used as saddle bags today.|
|Forgotten art. A proper saddle bag.|
I found a beautiful documentary on Qashqai tribe done by David Attenborough from 1975 and I thought I maybe interested to find it on you-tube and watch it.
Please write a comment after viewing it and let me know what you think about it.
Majid Mirmohamadi September 2005
Majid persian & Oriental Carpets
219 Canterbury Rd, Canterbury,
Victoria 3126, Australia