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Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry Anderson: part 5

HALI: Have you visited their camps?

JA: Yes. It's a dead end road to get there, you have to turn back once you reach them, they are at the end of the line. There were no pile weavings in their tents. Some of them lived in yurts like the Turkoman, most of them lived in huts like the Hazaras of the area. Some of the tribe tended flocks and moved with their herds, but they were essentially an extension of a fixed settlement, some of whom also engaged in sparse agriculture – like the Jamshidi. HALI: What do you think of Eiland's plate 97 ("Aimaq or Baluch")?
JA: This is a very interesting rug (25). It's a Rukshan Baluchistan carpet, from the area of Nushki. It was made by the Baddini. They are an ancient tribe, mentioned by Herodotus in the 6th century BC as being a Scythian royal tribe. These people make salt bags and saddle bags, flatweaves. They do not weave many knotted rugs. It's a very rare thing.

9. Bahluli/Mushwani (?) funerary (?) rug, Afghan Sistan, mid 19th century. 0.95 x 1.68m (3'1" x 5'6"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool; weft: 2Z, natural brown wool, 3 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, SY, 6H x 7V = 42/in2 (650/dm2); sides: 3 cords wrapped with natural brown wool; ends: missing; colours: 12. Private collection USA, courtesy Skinner, Bolton, Massachusetts.

HALI: But we thought that no piled weavings were made in Baluchistan.
JA: Rukshan, which is today referred to as the Chagai District of Baluchistan, was the easternmost part of Sistan and was only annexed by the British in the late 19th century.

HALI: How do you account for the use in this region of a design which most of us would associate with the Turkomans or the Uzbeks?
JA: There is nothing Turkoman about this design. You must understand that Sistani culture is basically the same as that of the Turkomans. So why is it unusual to see this design on this very rare, very beautiful, rug? Had it not had this kilim end, it would have bamboozled me. Its size is typical of weavings from the Nushki area. Their houses are elongated mud dwellings that you have to step down into.

HALI: And this one, plate 8 ("Aimaq") from the Baluch poll article?
JA: The format is pure Salar Khani (27), typical for this group.

HALI: What do you think of this prayer rug from an American private collection?
JA: Very unusual, must be a Sharakhi from Sistan (17).

10. Jehan Begi/Salar Khani khorjin face, Khorasan, second half 19th century. 0.79 x 0.81m (2'7" x 2'8"). 'Baluch Perspectives', HALI 59, p.115, attributed to the 'Kizil Bash Turkoman, Mahavalat region', subsequently reassigned to "possibly Bayat, Nishapur or Turshiz district". Anne Halley Collection, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California

HALI: And no.30 ("Turkestan, Timuri-Belouch") from Belouch Prayer Rugs?
JA: Looks like a Kurd, certainly is not a Taimuri (18). The innermost border is a Sangchuli idea. The camel wool is undyed, but the Sistanis always dye theirs. This rug is made by some copy artist, some Kurdish group. And this one, no.28, is from the Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area, not Turkestan (23). Possibly Jehan Begi, they do use that design. And no.22 appears to be Sangchuli, a very nice example from Zabol (19).

HALI: And no.2 in the HALI Baluch poll article?
JA: Arab, just like he says, but from Firdows (26). I'm sure it is woven on a cotton foundation. It's more Baluch than most rugs from Firdows. As I said before, they are usually a Persian type of rug. What is this about a woven date here? I really doubt it – for a start most Baluch have no concern for dates and when they do, the inscribed dates in what are normally workshop rugs are usually placed in or near a corner, not floating freely in the field. I used to buy fragments of rugs which had woven dates, just to get some idea of how to date rugs in general. I had a whole collection of Turkoman and some Baluch fragmented prayer rugs with dates. But they're all gone now.

11. Bahluli (?) burial (?) rug, Sistan, late 19th century. 0.66 x 1.32m (2'2" x 4'4"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps deeply depressed; weft: 2Z, olive green wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left, 9H x 11V = 99/in2 (1,535/dm2); sides: 2 cords of 2 cables of Z5S goat hair, each pair overwrapped with goat hair in figure-8; ends: bands of plain tapestry; colours: 12. Belouch Prayer Rugs, pl.26, attributed to "Farah or Zurabad". Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

HALI: Can you comment on the omnipresent mina khani design. It occurs in so many different places. Is it a tribal design which moved to the towns or vice versa?
JA: Definitely from the tribes to the cities. It pops up in geographically disparate regions because it is basically Indo-European, and the weavers of all these rugs are descended from the same original Indo-European tribes. Many people might argue with the theory of diffusion, but with the question of carpets, it is all true. It all fanned out from Balkashia to various locales in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Khorasan, Persia and Anatolia. HALI: What accounts for 'Seljuk' iconography on so-called Baluch rugs?
JA: Are you following what I am saying? They are the same people. What's the big surprise? It is the dissemination of a single culture, from the Lake Balkashia region, and eventually to Sistan. Why not a continuation of design? In that vein, the Persian word for carpet is ghaleen, derived from the ancient Indo-European word gaalee, which means language! The carpet was an ancient representational form of language, of religious significance, depicting the cosmic symbology.

HALI: Why is the wool in Baluch rugs so soft and shiny?
JA: They use lambs' wool, and the wool from the throat and belly, the best wool on the animal. The animal is unwashed and the wool therefore retains all the lanolin, the wool has so much natural oil.

HALI: Did the Baluch weave dowry pieces?
JA: Yes, the bride made all these things herself, receiving no help from other women in the household. These dowry rugs consisted of a 4' x 6' rug, a prayer rug, a pair of balisht, khorjin (saddle bags), a salt bag and a shepherd's bag (showandan) The dastarkhan or sofreh were woven by married women, as were many other functional pieces. Khorjin (donkey bags) are also made for dowry. Sistani khorjin have a piled shoulder on both sides, while those from Afghanistan are open across the middle, plain flatweave with no piled shoulder connecting the two bags.

HALI: What accounts for the dark, 'sombre' tonality of Baluch group rugs? JA: Maturity. Sistan had a very developed culture. The Turkoman used to be like that, but then they began raiding northern Iran, rampaging, pillaging and looting, showing off. Thus they made these strongly coloured rugs. The redder the better, very immature.The Baluch, who live in the desert, like the darker colours, and of course the dyestuffs available to them yielded those shades. There were exceptions among the groups located further north where Turkoman influence was greater, thus the rugs are sometimes redder, as in the Salar Khani rugs of northern Khorasan.

From the Horses Mouth

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994

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