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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Exhibition: A Tale of Two Persian Carpets (One by One) – The Ardabil and Coronation Carpets

Exhibition dates: 17 September 2017 – 8 July 2018

Dating to the first half of the sixteenth century, LACMA’s two spectacular Persian carpets, both the gift of J. Paul Getty, have only rarely been exhibited due in part to their size and sensitivity to light. Now, these large and sumptuous carpets will be shown sequentially, affording visitors the opportunity to see two of the world’s most renowned Persian carpets and to learn of their fascinating history before and after they left Iran. The Ardabil carpet will be on view from 17 September 2017 – 19 February 2018, and the Coronation carpet will be exhibited from 24 February – 8 July 2018.

The large number of carpets surviving from sixteenth-century Iran compared to earlier periods reflects not only a high level of carpet production but also perhaps a change in the nature of their manufacture. During this period, carpet weaving evolved from a rural, nomadic craft to a national industry and an internationally acclaimed art form, as the first shahs of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1732) established royal factories in cities such as Tabriz, Kashan, Kirman and Isfahan. The two great Persian carpets presented here belong to this period of cultural, political and religious flowering.

For more information, visit the website of LACMA, Los Angeles, USA.