Re: NW Persian-Caucasian "Mafrash" the Anomaly?

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on April 27, 1999 at 11:34:48:

In Reply to: Re: NW Persian-Caucasian "Mafrash" the Anomaly? posted by Steve Price on April 27, 1999 at 05:46:19:

: Dear Everyone,

: As far as I know, the box-shaped bag is nearly unique to NW Persia/Caucasus, so I suppose it is the anomalous one. Saying that doesn't explain why the people who made it didn't make things more or less analogous to torbas, juvals, etc., or at least, didn't make them in very large numbers.

: Some interesting suggestions for where the explanations may lie have emerged during the discussion already, though. Some mention has been made of different kinds of pack animals, different distances of migration placing different premiums on whether a bag is more useful in a tent or during a migration, and so forth. It would be very helpful to have someone with firsthand field experience involved in this. It would be even better to have a few Turkmen and Shahsevan people, preferably pre-18th century folks, with computers and internet access. But even though we ain't much, we're probably going to be all we've got to work with.

: Regards,

: Steve Price

Dear Steve:

I do not think the three dimensional box shaped bags we refer to as mafrash are unique to NWP and the Caucasus. Certainly examples from the Chahar Mahal woven probably by Bahktiaris are well known and appear to be traditional. In addition to having consistent designs, one of which is the opposed bird's head widely discussed by James Opie, these examples have a distinctive end panel that forms a diagonal closure flap. It is also likely that the Qashqai wove such bags, again with similar end panels. An example of such end panels was recently auctioned as a saddle cover on eBay and another example is currently on the web site of Halidan carpets. Interestingly, both of these examples are silk wefted. An example of a piled mafrash side panel woven by Qashqai or Bahktiari's is currently viewed on Alberto Levi's exhibition of minimal design weavings as #30.
Clearly these bags, although often associated with Shahsavan and groups in the Caucasus, were woven by others. They simply are less known because of their rarity. Doubtless many traditional weavings have been lost through use, lack of documentation, disinterest and disregard. This may well distort our understanding of what people did or did not weave. Further distortion arises from looking at different peoples at different points in their traditions. By the 1860s most Turkomen were largely subjugated by various outside political, economic and geopolitical forces. The same thing occurred at different speeds and in different ways for other groups in NWP and elsewhere. Little serious or sympathetic study of these people, their way of life or material culture commenced until this way of life had been destroyed, sometimes for generations. As a result, we are left with speculation. This speculation can be informed, but it is still speculation and, at the risk of being redundant, why wouldn't we expect the weavings to be different? I am amazed that there are as many similarities as we see in those weavings which have come down to us. Perhaps this has to do with something as simple as there is a finite number of formats that achieve the purpose for weaving the object in the first place.
Kindest regards, Michael

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