TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Anatolian ala cuvallari
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  09-18-1999 on 07:55 p.m.
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How about sacks that have NEITHER fronts nor backs, but only SIDES? These make up another group of Anatolian ala cuvallari that I'd guess are unfamiliar to many collectors. There's a complete Obruk brocaded example on my website (W-1141, at the end of the Bags-1 page). Maybe someone who knows how to post these things can put the two photos here--both front and side views. I don't know of any name in Turkish that distinguishes these sacks from the more normal type--all are just called ala cuval, decorated sacks.
<i>NOTE: Images added per request, by S. Price</i>



Some smart cookie who didn't like seeing part of the front and part of the back of each sack when they were lined up along the back of her tent or winter house devised this unusual way of wrapping the ornamented part around one of the bag's corners. When they are filled and in a row you see only the decorated portions! In Jon Thompson's "Carpet Magic" there's a photo by Josephine of such a line-up: on page 88. A quite wide range of patterning can appear on these sacks, ranging from Memling Guls to hooked figures. Some are truly stunning. All-over lattice-work, as in the Obruk piece, is less common. These are often referred to as "grain sacks" but are normally used for household items and clothing, while grain is stored in plain sacks, or in sacks with minimal decoration.

These particular ala cuvallari were most commonly made by nomads in the Maras/Gaziantep/Malatya area of Anatolia, but a few were also made in Central and Western Turkey. The backs--whoops, I mean "sides"--of these are typically decorated with very wide, plain, multicolored bands. Occasionally we find small brocaded good-luck charms added in one or more of these plain bands. The artisan goes about making the piece in this order: First she weaves 2 1/2 feet or so of plain weave; then two wide decorated panels (usually brocaded), leaving a plain section in the center where a strap can be attached later; then finally another 2 1/2 foot section. Once off the loom she sews the two ends together and then stitches across one end of the resulting tube to make the bottom--so that one decorated panel is on each side.

As with other large storage sacks, the undecorated parts wear first, as that's what is dragged across the ground. So most often, when we find old examples of these bags, what's left is the ornate two-panel design section. (There are a few of these panels on my site.) It is always a question which way these should be displayed, as the panels are woven horizontally, but once the bag is assembled, and in use, they are vertical. These peculiar bags were made by both Turkic and Kurdish nomads in Anatolia. I wonder if anyone knows of such a thing from any other area?


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