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What's in a Bag? by Farzan NavabQashga

The tribal people of the near east residing in areas of eastern Turkey, western and southern Persia, western Afghanistan and southern Turkmanistan have a long history of weaving. They weave small rugs and carpets and many articles that are for tent decoration. Amongst their beautiful creations are bags that are made to carry cargo. For example the Qashqa'i tribes of southern Persia in their yearly migration in search of pasture carry a huge load of cargo which include all of the material needed for their livelihood. Whether used as saddle bags or larger bags that are tied around a horse or a mule; hand made bags woven with the most attractive and intricate designs have been used by these tribes for centuries.

In late 19th century art collectors, rug merchants and other Westerners who traveled through the area were attracted by these smaller articles which were curious in size and beautiful in design. Some dealers who purchased these pieces took the inner part which consisted of a flat woven piece, otherwise known as kilim, from the pile/knotted side and made the rug stand as a single piece; selling it was a small rug. Rug dealers and scholars alike came to call these piece as "bag face"; referring to the side of the piece containing a pile.

The beauty of a bag face lies in its design, its colors and its wool. The subtleties of color together with suppleness of the wool create an object which is perhaps more akin to a painting than what is traditionally regarded as an oriental rug. Furthermore, it is the very notion of tangibility which makes a bag face attractive and sought after by collectors.

The truly old bag faces (pieces from 1875 to 1900s) have been made with natural dyes which given them an added dimension of depth and a color pallet unmatched by synthetic dyes. Some bag faces are specially attractive; having been made for a tribal chieftain or by a weaver who may have wanted the bag to serve as her dowry. Because of the fact that making a bag face does not require using too much wool tribal weavers were able to make many of them in a variety of designs and color. Yet each tribe and ethnic grouping was able to achieve a style and color unique to its own tradition. For example Baluch tribes of north eastern Persia make intensely dark colored bag faces that at the first glance may not give one a range of color found in say Kurdish bag faces. However, after close examination, one discovers many colors that are unique to Baluch tribes. The amazing midnight blue, the glorious ivory, the subtle and rare emerald green are legendary as great Baluchi colors.

While Baluch bag faces are well known for their subtle but somber hues, Qashqa'i pieces are known for their bright colors and sophisticated tight weave. Kurdish bag faces generally have a coarser weave with strong sense of color and a thick wooly pile. Turkoman tribes make very regularly designed pieces that are tightly woven with a strong sense of ethnicity. Turkoman designs are easily recognizable; their patterns and motifs often tell us about which tribe the weaver belonged to

The variety of designs in bag faces have made them a favorite subject matter among rug enthusiasts. Collecting them can be both fun and affordable and as an investment bag faces are safe and enjoy reasonable appreciation.


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