Textile Art and Culture in BaluchistanMay 14 2021
The term Baluchistan refers to a territory that straddles the modern borders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. For centuries, this region has been home to a vibrant mix of different peoples and ethnic groups, including Baluch (Baluchistan literally means “land of the Baluch”), Pashtun, Aimaq and Hazara, among others. Many of the people in Baluchistan have historically led nomadic or semi-nomadic lives, periodically moving flocks of sheep and goats across the land in search of fresh pastures. Over the past century, however, this nomadic way of life has become increasingly difficult to maintain, as changing political and economic conditions have limited the free movement of people within countries and across international borders. Nomads still exist in Baluchistan, but their numbers are dwindling and their culture is changing so rapidly that this ancient way of life may vanish from the region by the end of the 21st century.
The need to move regularly with their flocks compelled the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Baluchistan to develop a highly self-sufficient, highly economical way of life. Most of the nomads live year round in tents made of woven goat-hair fabric that allows air to circulate within the structure when the weather is hot and dry, but that swells up to become waterproof in rainy or snowy conditions. The semi-nomadic people of the region live part of the year in tents and part of the year in simple village houses built of wood, mud brick and stone. The tents and houses of both nomads and semi-nomads are furnished primarily with rugs and pillows woven from the wool of their own sheep and many daily activities are conducted at ground level. To make migrating easier, most nomads do not use much wooden furniture and their relatively few possessions are stored in woven wool bags of different shapes and sizes. Clothing is typically made of wool, cotton or other materials that the people purchase using money obtained by selling surplus wool, leather and milk from their flocks. The centrality of textiles in the lives of the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Baluchistan makes these textiles an excellent lens through which to view and understand their culture. The textiles in this exhibition are grouped by form, function and design to shed light on both traditional and modern aspects of nomadic and semi-nomadic life in that region.
Most of the Baluchistan textiles in the Kruizenga Museum collection were donated by Verne Trinoskey and Paula Armintrout Trinoskey of Eureka, California. The museum is very grateful for their generosity.
Clothing and Adornment
Clothing functions as an important marker of cultural identity and social status among the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Baluchistan. Male clothing is highly practical and often very plain in appearance. Male outfits generally consist of loose trousers, a long thigh or knee-length tunic, a vest or scarf, and a hat or turban. The colors of these garments tend to be muted shades of brown and gray that conceal dirt and are comfortable to wear in a hot, sunny climate. Female clothing is also practical, but much more decorative. Female outfits consist of loose trousers, a loose-fitting, ankle-length dress, and a shawl that can also be used as a head cover. These garments conceal the shape of the woman’s body in accordance with Islamic modesty requirements, but at the same time they are often decorated with ornate, brightly colored embroidery patterns that naturally attract the eye. Like weaving, embroidery is primarily a female art form in Baluchistan and many girls begin learning needlework at a young age. [Caleigh White ‘20]