Nomads of Persia are known for their intuitive woven art. It may be surprising to know that many of the traditional European flat weaving practices is in fact take their origin from the nomadic groups and mountain village people of North Africa and Central and Western Asia. Nomads being wonderers of the mountains and the land, weave intuitively as if a conduit from the heart. This simple yet sophisticated art is reflected in the colours and the patterns of the rugs and kilims produced in this land. With strong connections to the nature and their surroundings they carry their way of life through weaving. What makes them have such skills and qualities in crafting textiles for centuries? To be able to answer such questions, one might have to dive into their lifestyle and their journey through the land in which qualifies them as weavers of such art.
Nomads are humans whose livelihood is based on wandering from place to place and livestock farming. This kind of life has created special mental conditions and moods as well as responsibilities and duties for them. There are many different tribes in Central Asia. In Persia, nomads are divided into seven main categories in terms of languages: Turkmen, Turkish, Kurdish, Luri, Arabic and Baluch. We have chosen the tribes of Bakhtiyari and hoping to touch base on other tribes in future. Bakhtiyaris are one of many tribes of Luris that live mainly in South, Southwest, West of Perisa today.
The land of Bakhtiar is among the very first lands where humans domesticated animals and plants. Thus, for centuries, they have been taking the routes to find greener grass in surviving and living among their clan. Here we would like to touch on few of the characteristics of this tribal lifestyle and understand their way of life. It gives us the idea of how they go through their journey as a mean to maturity and community bond. The annual migration of the Bakhtiari people is one of the most interesting and complex among nomadic tribes around the world. They leave their hometown in early spring for greener lands and fresh water to North and Western parts of the land. On the night of their departure, they have a large feast, including all the families who are journeying together, women baking bread, and men preparing the meat on fire. Younger adults and children prepare the fire, and singing joyous Luri songs which are accompanied by playing their folk musical instruments and drums. This music is played by instruments such as Serena, Korna and Kos and wind instruments. The Tashmals are in charge of the music in the tribe, and to this day they are responsible for performing the local music of the Bakhtiari people at weddings and mourning ceremonies of the Bakhtiari people.
On the morning of their departure, everyone is ready on foot, all belongings secured on horses and donkeys which prepare them for the journey. Children are securely carried by foot or on four legged animals. The herd, which can be up to 1000 goats, is accompanied by the shepherds and many dogs protecting the group. Each member of the tribe has a role to play while on foot. With the help of their leaders and patience of the companions the move begins. Beginning the trip for such large groups requires will power and using the right tools. The map is laid down and the path has been chosen. The leaders must be aware of all the dangers along the way and must foresee for what is coming. The stream of this path passes through mountains and valleys with more than 3,000 feet. Not all families travel together, though reunite at different points of their path. Each year from end of May, which spring is on move, they scatter from five different routes along tireless struggle with hardship of nature, while crossing rivers, valleys and leaving behind the yellow mountain heights in certain areas of the Zagros slopes and stay in this area for nearly four months and graze livestock in lush green meadows.
The men and women have been well prepared for the road. On one hand, the brave and hardworking men of the Bakhtiari tribe are famous for horse riding and shooting among the inhabitants of the Iranian plateau. As the prominent ranks of Iranian army shooters in the Safavid, Afshariya, Zandiyeh and Qajar periods were formed from the elite shooters of the Bakhtiari tribe. Even today, every household of the Bakhtiari nomads has at least one weapon in their possession, so that in addition to hunting and protecting the clan, they can use their skills to defend the borders of the family when necessary. The elders of the first tribe teach their children shooting and riding. Bakhtiari shooters are sometimes so skilled in this technique that they can aim at moving objects while riding and galloping.
Women, on the other hand, play a vital role in stability of their communities of Bakhtiyaris. They are peace maker in times of reconciliations, whether it’s a fight between two families over land division, marriage ties, or soothing the men at the time of hardship and hazards. Their other daily activities include childbearing, carpet weaving and other handicraft, making all dairy products, bringing firewood, dyeing yarns, spinning, and telling their life stories through their craft to next generations. The elders are responsible in teaching the ways and the young ones are very proud to sit by their grandmothers and learn by heart the secrets of their lifetime skills. By the time they are fourteen they are ready to take responsibilities and move towards adulthood.
After crossing the obstacles of their route, the tribe arrives at the valleys of Zagros slopes, the grass is lush, and wind is on their side. The families stay in this area for nearly four months and settle in for their work. This is the time that the weaving and other community arts begin. It’s a merry time and they enjoy the companionship of being together. Shepherds gather wool from sheep in June. Women weavers separate the best white wool from back of the sheep which has thin and long cells and turn them into soft wool until they reach and turn into cream thread. The diameter of the threads should be uniformed. After spinning, they are rolled and rolled with a curling iron so that they can be washed and dyed.
Tribal carpet and kilim weaving act eliminates mental fatigue and mental discomfort of their journey. It removes desires and sorrows from the subconscious mind and transfers them into the art of weaving. It gives comfort to the weaver. Progress in weaving makes them happy. It is the support of life! Moreover, they are used in their daily life providing comfort on floor, as door flaps, covers for food in preparation, and prayer rugs. Guests would be treated to a fine array of the best flatweave as a display of their hosts status and hospitality. Along with jewellery, clothing, tent furnishings, and animal trappings, expressed the identity of the nomadic group and served, along with the knotted rugs, precious metals and animals, as a form of family 'wealth'. At a time of crisis, or of need for a commodity, any of these possessions could be bartered or exchanged.
It is clear that the motivations for kilim-weaving have changed greatly in last 20-40 years. Kilims are made for profit and commerce in an international or tourist market have largely replaced the 'traditional' examples produced for domestic use or as part of a dowry. The marketplace may now seem enormously confusing to the potential buyers. Whether there is an authentic rug shop in your area, or you travel to far lands to buy a kilim, they are the best collective art for the future generation of any nation and a story to be carried on. We wander the villages and bazaars of Persia with an open heart and keen eye, sourcing only fine and exclusive kilims that are deeply made in the nomadic tribes and have kept its essence and quality. Have a look through the Kilim Collection and message us for the collectible flatweaves available in our space.