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Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry Anderson: part 3

 HALI: And the Mushwani?JA: They are the Sarabani Mushwani, a huge group who came from Caucasia after the fall of Khazar, a Turkic state which converted to Judaism.

The Sarabani left after the Swedish Vikings ransacked that area. They escaped into what is known today as Afghanistan. Now the Mushwani are just one subgroup of the Sarabani. They are located in various places. There are some near Quetta and some in southeast Afghanistan. There are even some in the vicinity of Islamabad here in Pakistan. Depending on where they are located they speak different languages, including Farsi, Pushto, Brahui and Rakshani Baluchi. But the rug weaving groups called Mushwani are located near Adraskand in western Afghanistan and in Sistan.

3. Shahraki Sarbandi rug, Sistan, late 19th century. 1.07 x 2.18m (3'6" x 7'2"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps slightly depressed; weft: 2Z, brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left; sides: missing; ends: traces of plain and weft-float tapestry weave; colours: 8. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.37. Courtesy David Black & Clive Loveless, London.

HALI: What about plate 37 in Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi? Some people call this type Mushwani.
JA: This is a Sharakhi, one of the twin tribes of the Sarbandi from Sistan (3). Today all the cloth weavers in Zabol are Sharakhis.

HALI: It has been suggested that this group of rugs was woven by Hazaras near Bala Murghab in northwest Afghanistan.
JA: How can anyone say that? Did the person ever go to Afghanistan?

HALI: Did the tribes copy designs from one another?
JA: Not until recently, never. Copy artists in the Baluch confederation began to work after about 1945. Up until 1940 or so, the traditional system of tribal identity among the Baluch tribes in Sistan, Khorasan and Afghanistan remained intact. Of course intertribal marriages did occur, and a blend of design and styles naturally ensued. The woman would weave her tribe's or clan's border design around her husband's tribe's field design. Among adherents, defeated clans or tribes who adhered to a dominant tribe, weavers would put their border around the field design of the dominant tribe.

The Shia Hazaras were copy artists, or they wove rugs for sale on a commission basis, principally in the Mashad area, including those red prayer rugs with the hands in the hand panels. But in Afghanistan they do not weave pile rugs. Some Hazaras were employed around Herat as copy artists in workshops. The same is true of the Jamshidi and Firozkohi, who were only copy artists in workshops and did not traditionally weave pile rugs. Now the Hazaras also inhabit other parts of Afghanistan, including central Afghanistan, ranging all the way down almost to Kandahar, and also the mountains near Ghor. There they do weave beautiful jagged kilims, blankets with lightning-like designs, but not piled rugs. The Hazara are a beautiful people, whose social groups are dominated by their womenfolk. It is very difficult to get into these areas. In 1968 or '69 I tried to get in there, about sixty miles southwest of Kabul, in my Land Rover, but I was stopped by Amazons with rifles

Huts composed of reeds, a common material used throughout Seistan in SE Persia. The reeds are taken from local lakes.

HALI: Who are the Taimani and do they weave piled rugs?
JA: The Taimani are a totally different people. Taimani is a very old name and they are a proud ancient nomadic tribe. I think they move all the way down to Farah and Chakhansur. I don't think of them as an integral element of the Chahar Aimaq confederation. They weave those very large pushtis (chuval-like bags for storage and transport) with large-scale designs that one sees in Afghanistan. Woven in pairs, many of them are cut and separated, then they are mistaken for rugs. I've seen them published as rugs in some of these magazines.

HALI: Some people call this type of rug, from an American collection, Taimani?
JA: I think this is Sarbandi (20). Some of these tribal people live in fixed settlements, others of the same tribe are nomadic. There is a fixed settlement of these people in Zabol itself and they make beautiful rugs which are very different to these other ones. This rug probably comes from Afghan Sistan, from the Chakhansur region, Nimruz. HALI: What kind of rug is Black & Loveless's plate 30? Michael Craycraft calls the type 'Karai'. Certainly they are a specific group, defined by depressed warps and four cord selvedges in addition to the frequent use of the mina khani design.
JA: Wasn't this one of Ian Bennett's rugs? It is Jehan Begi, one hundred per cent Jehan Begi (6).

HALI: And Black & Loveless's plate 25?
JA: Salar Khani from northern Sistan (2).

HALI: To what extent have you been concerned with structure in the years you have been interested in rugs?
JA: I've tried to be. I've at least noticed structure, but have never thought of it as the only criterion as to who made a rug. You have to understand, I have been all over the tribal areas in Khorasan, Sistan, Baluchistan, Afghanistan. I speak some of these languages, including Brahui, Baluch and Urdu. I don't speak Farsi

5. Salar Khani/Jehan Begi carpet, Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area, Khorasan, first half 19th century. 1.09 x 2.18m (3'7" x 7'2"). Warp: Z2S, white wool, on one level; weft: 2Z, brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left; sides & ends: missing; colours: 8. Black & Loveless, Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.39. Private collection, UK.

HALI: What about Black & Loveless's plate 3?
JA: Another Jehan Begi (7). I believe it might have had a funerary function, to be placed over the bier – a kaffani.

HALI: And plate 39
JA: Again, wasn't this Ian Bennett's rug? It is a hybrid Salar Khani/Jehan Begi from the Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area (5). It was woven by a Salar Khani woman married to a Jehan Begi man. It's a wonderful rug, and very old. Notice the cock's comb, Herati-style, border; this is a Salar Khani motif, the Jehan Begi never do this on their own.
HALI: What of this opposing niche 'prayer' rug which was illustrated in HALI 54, attributed to the Quchan Kurds, and later sold as an Aimaq at auction?
JA: I think it may have been made by a Bahluli woman who married a Mushwani (9). It is a burial rug. I believe all piled rugs owe their origins to their sacred function as a burial shroud with star map designs to guide the departed soul to heaven. Gradually, over centuries, the by-products of this tradition began being produced in every imaginable and functional form to which, these days, there is virtually no end! Witness bicycle seat covers and the like. HALI: Who are the Aimaq tribe, as opposed to the tribes of the Chahar Aimaq?
JA: They are a division of the Hazaras, or at least a people related to the Hazara groups. They are called Chengezi Mongols and still speak a Mongol language. There are deposits of them in northern Afghanistan as well as near Haripur on the east bank of the Indus River. Those in the Indus Valley are Sunni as far as I know. They only make flatweaves.

From the Horses Mouth

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994

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