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Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry Anderson: part 8

The Sasouli and the Sanjaranis are very hospitable people. If you get into their clutches, you cannot continue on your safari.

They will keep you. I used to travel throughout these areas by Land Rover in my work as a herpetologist. I would sometimes stop for water and they would insist on throwing their hospitality upon you. They would lay out all the carpets, give you this and that, and you were stuck! For at least 24 hours! Wonderful people, really.

20. 'Baluch' carpet, probably Sarbandi tribe. Chakhansur, Minroz area, Afghan Sistan, mid(?) 19th century, 1.57 x 2.64m (5'2" x 8'8"). According to Jerry Anderson, rugs of this type, sometimes attributed to the Taimani in the literature, are the work o fthe Sarbandi tribe of the Sistan region, which straddles teh modern Iranian/Afghan border. Warps: Z2S, ivory wool; Weft:2Z, light brown wool, 2 shoots; Knot:2Z, wool, AS open left, 6H x 7V=42/in2 (650/dm2); Sides: traces of 3-cord ivory wool overcast with light aubergine wool; Ends: plain weft faced flatweave; Colours 9. Private Collection, USA

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994
All text edited and prepared by Tom Cole based upon tape recorded conversations w/ Jerry Anderson, © 2003
No parts of this text or any photo may be re-produced, transmitted or copied by electronic means or otherwise without permission from the author.

The Story Is Free
By Andrew Hale
Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994

Another Westerner with ample experience of recent Baluch weaving is Andy Hale, now a specialist dealer in Central Asian textiles and jewellery. The following comments in response to HALI's interview with Jerry Anderson, are based on his own direct experience in Afghanistan during the 1970s.

The Anderson interview brought back many memories of the bazaars and deserts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. When I first went to Afghanistan in 1972 I was already a rug 'expert'. I had read two or three books and been to half a dozen rug shops and auctions. I knew that any rug that wasn't obviously Turkoman was certainly called 'Baluch' and that any Turkoman rug without güls was called a Beshir.

From 1973 onwards, I spent increasingly longer periods in Afghanistan – between 1975 and 1980 I was there for all but six months. I haven't been back to Kabul since 1992, but I still make three trips to Pakistan each year. Over twenty years later it seems like a long slide from the certainty of my youth to the vague ideas I have today on carpet identification. But I have come by my uncertainty with great effort. It didn't take long to figure out that rug books presented a rather simplified version of the complex Central Asian textile world, and that most shopkeepers in Kabul had little interest in the tribal or ethnic origins of what they sold.

Some of my best information came from simply standing in front of Noori Sher's shop in Kabul and asking villagers about the rugs they had brought to sell. Few people wanted to discuss the meaning of designs, and they seemed most unreliable on the age of their rugs. But I was usually able to get a village or tribal name from them. Noori Sher's front stoop was the first place that I heard names like Aimaq, Arab, Lokhari, Taimani, Timuri, Mushwani, and more.
But I was not travelling around the desert visiting nomad camps. My informants did not weave the rugs, which came second and third hand to the bazaar. Anyway, I was interested in older pieces, whose weavers were long dead. In the end, I learned as much from reliable shopkeepers who were themselves from outside Kabul and ran specialist shops bringing in material from their home provinces of Herat and Andkhui.

21. Jehan Begi rug, Khorasan, second half 19th century. 1.12 x 1.88m (3'8" x 6'2"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool with a few strands of camel and brown wool, alternate warps depressed; weft: 2Z, pale olive and natural brown, goat hair, 2 shoots; knot: 3-4Z, wool, AS open left, 8H x 10V = 80/in2 (1,240/dm2); sides: 4 cords overcast with goat hair in figure-8; ends: bands of weft-faced plainweave with some slit-tapestry, interlocking weave and weft substitution; colours: 10. Eiland, Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, pl.93, attributed to "Torbat-e-Haidari region, possibly Karai". Anne Halley Collection, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

If only I had done this for a few months and gone home! Then I could have been the kind or person who could speak with certainty. But the longer I stayed, the less consistent the answers became. Yesterday's Aimaq could be today's Taimani. I mention all this as a way of explaining how very difficult it is to get a clear understanding of rug weaving in Afghanistan. There are still plenty of real Turkoman and Baluch to talk to – and real work to be done, perhaps by Western women with language skills. Weaving is part of the womens' world and men will always be outsiders. There are a few Westerners with real in-depth knowledge of Baluch rugs. Jerry Anderson appears to be one of them and his experience is much richer than mine.

In my experience, however, most so-called 'Baluch' rugs are not Baluch at all. If a Baluch is someone whose mother tongue is Baluchi, then most of these rugs seem to be woven by non-Baluchis – Taimani, Aimaq, Arab and probably Mushwani people. Many of the more recent rugs called Baluch are woven by Persian speaking villagers around Herat.

22. Taimuri rug, Khorasan, late 19th century. 0.71 x 1.27m (2'4" x 4'2"). Warp: Z2S, dark ivory wool; weft: natural brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: wool, AS open left, 8H x 10V = 80/in2 (1,240/dm2); sides: 1 cord overcast with goat hair; colours: 7. Eiland, Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, pl.98, attributed as "Baluchi type, possibly Jamshidi, region of the Harirud where it forms the Irano-Afghan border", subsequently assigned to "Jamshidi, Badghiz district". Anne Halley Collection, Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.

Anselmo, California.

Anselmo, California.

From the Horses Mouth

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994

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