in a Bag?
by Farzan Navab
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.
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
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.
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
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