A common thread in the discussions of this salon is the question of
whether a given image is representative of sexuality or of reproduction. Care
must be taken to not jump to false conclusions simply because reproductive
anatomy is displayed. Bands or other tribal trappings of humans with breast or
male genital imagery may merely be a way of identifying the sex of the
individual, without any sexual implications. Other images, such as quadrupeds
with erections, and males and females placed toe to toe, may well be an
inference of sexual intercourse.
Field work among Iranian nomads in the third and fourth quarters of the twentieth century has shown that women weavers occasionally put symbols on their rugs and trappings which, although abstract, had a secret meaning. Given the natural shyness in nearly all cultures regarding sexual matters, it would not be surprising if some symbols have a hidden sexual meaning. As students and aficionados of tribal textile art, we must be rigorously careful to avoid assigning a definite meaning to such abstractions without some weight of evidence. One the essays in the Orient Stars text referred to the oriental rug literature being full of dreamers and romantics, and while is natural to dream, we must be careful to distinguish between what is there and what we want to see.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this 'touchy' subject, and hope this stimulates more serious investigation into interpretation of tribal iconography. Additional comments may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.