Article: Iranian nomads, and ORTS event in London tonight

A nomadic family during their migration. © Newsha Tavakolian

Why Iran’s nomads are fading away, with text by Thomas Erdbrink and wonderful photographs by Newsha Tavakolian, is a very thought-provoking article on the difficulties faced by Iranian nomads.

There are over a million nomads in Iran, and for many years they have followed a traditional lifestyle which involved moving their animals along ancient routes to cool pastures in the Zagreb mountains every spring. Now many transport their belongings on trucks instead of horseback. The number of black tents being set up in the pastures is dwindling year on year as young people sell off their flocks and move to the towns. One of the main reasons for this change seems to be the desire for education. As one woman put it “I won’t let my daughters marry a nomad,” she said. “Our lifestyle is horrible. I want them to live in a city and study.” Do click through the slideshow near the beginning of the article for extra images and information.

Reading this brings to mind the famous film Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life made about the Bakhtiari migration in 1925. The numbers of people involved in that migration in contrast to the situation today is stark. Fifty thousand people, led by Haidar Khan, made this trek which lasted for 48 days and involved crossing an icy river on inflated goat skins. Seeing them climb the snowy mountains – in one case with a man carrying a donkey on his back – makes you realise just how desperate these people were to reach the life-sustaining grass on the other side. This really is a truly remarkable film, a ten-minute excerpt of which can be viewed here and is highly recommended.

Last year the Metropolitan Museum in New York held an exhibition entitled Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg, which I blogged about here.

Spindle bag. Gift of Inger G. and William B. Ginsberg, 2015. © Metropolitan Museum.

More information on the various tribes, as well as their weavings can be found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum here.

Khamseh bird rug. © Paul R Benjamin

Tonight – Wednesday 20 February 2019 Professor Paul R Benjamin is giving a talk on South Persian Rugs, Bags and Saddle Covers to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS). Professor Benjamin’s subjects  will include Qashqa’i Shekarlu rugs and Khamseh saddle covers . This talk in Piccadilly, London, is also open to non-members. Click here for further details.

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Event: ORTS Film Night

 

 

Event date: Wednesday 20 June 2018 at 6.30pm, St. James Piccadilly 

As part of their summer programme the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be hosting a film night focussing on the Bakhtiari.

Antony Wynn, who spent many years living in rural Iran, will be showing two films about the migration of the Bakhtiari tribes.  The first one “Grass” is a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters  and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  It is a very dramatic film and shows clearly how tough life was for the nomads in those days.

The second film “People of the Wind” was made by the late Shusha Guppy in 1976, following the same route with descendants of the same people, and it shows what had changed and what had stayed the same over those fifty years. This could be a long evening, so there will be an interval between the two films.

The doors open from 6pm with drinks and snacks being served. Non-members are welcome at a charge of £7 (£5 for students).

For details of the location visit the ORTS website

Article: Portable Storage Bags

Recently I posted about the exhibition on portable storage bags at the Metropolitan Museum in New York – ending 7 June 2018. Even if you can’t make it to the exhibition I highly recommend looking at their website, which has a wealth of information about these bags – how they are used, who made them, the techniques they used etc.

The different types of bags are examined, with examples of their use given. Specific bags were used to store salt, flour, bedding, spindles etc.

The section on the tribes covers the Qashqai, the Shahsevan and the Bakhtiari. It includes a fascinating short documentary about the Bakhtiari, filmed in 1925.

Slit-tapestry rugs from Turkey, called kilims, were woven in a wide range of sizes and formats for a wide variety of uses. Rugs associated with the market town of Reyhanlı, on the Turkish-Syrian border, were produced by nomad groups who moved to upland Taurus mountain pastures in the summer, returning to the Mediterranean littoral during winter months.

Besides the characteristic technique of mainly slit-tapestry (kilim), the splendid double saddlebags from Reyhanlı (called heybe in Turkish) sometimes include metallic-wrapped cotton threads, which the nomadic weavers could not produce themselves but had to acquire, probably in exchange for sheep or goat milk, cheese, or other products from their animals.

One such saddlebag is examined in greater detail by Associate Research Scientist Federico Caro, with particular attention being paid to the use of copper metallic thread that resembled gold.

In another section of the website conservators Julia Carlson and Yael Rosenfield examine the sumak technique, with lots of excellent detailed photographs.

It’s rare to see so much excellent background information for an exhibition – hope you enjoy reading it.