Cliff Kindy Iraq Blog

Current entries are related to Cliff Kindy's fourth Iraq trip, beginning in October 2007. The blog archives contains letters from Cliff's third Iraq trip in 2004-5.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Can Textiles Restore a People?

By Cliff Kindy, December 11, 2007

This morning CPTers visited “The Citadel,” the world’s oldest inhabited city, according to the sign at the entrance. It is true, the ruins that date back to 7000BC are deep within the mound that rises in the center of Erbil and the buildings inside the protecting wall date back only into the last century. The oldest site still being used is a public bath that is less than 200 years old.

But the most interesting spot is the Kurdish Textile Museum, a project of Lolan Mustefa. It is located in a three story building that he renovated. The walls and floors are covered with intricately designed hand-woven woolen rugs, baby carriers, saddle bags, blankets, and sleeping pads. Scattered elsewhere are displays of mittens, hats, ropes, socks and also reed mats that serve as walls of tents. On the roof top is a goat hair tent that sheds rain when the fibers swell to close the tiny openings. Then inside the museum is another room of felt products, again with designs that indicate tribal connections and are filled with symbols, some of which have meanings lost in history.

These handicrafts are the products of traditional nomadic Kurdish tribes. The resources for the crafts are from the animals and plants that surround the migrating tribes as they move from summer pastures in the mountains to the winter camps in the lowlands. The wool crafts are the handiwork of the women and the felt crafts are traditionally done by the men.

Mustefa came by this interest naturally. His grandparents moved from the mountains and pastures to Erbil when Mustefa was a child. They maintained their connection to the animals and continued the weaving practices even in the city. The visits and time he shared with his grandparents are the germ of his interest today.

But a crisis inundated these Kurdish people in 1975 when the Iraqi government began to destroy the villages that border Iran and Turkey to establish a free fire protection zone between Iraq and potential enemies. In those forced moves, families were unable to take with them the handwork and the tools of their trades and as they planted themselves in new locations the skills were lost.

When Mustefa returned from Sweden after some years of school in the United States and a year of travel across Latin America, he began buying rugs and weavings that portrayed the best of those earlier traditions. His family and friends thought he had taken leave of his senses. Jobs were essential and this was not an income producing job! Only his deep commitment and pulsating vision helped him stay with this work.

Mustefa told CPT, “I fear these nomadic traditions have nearly been lost. My vision is that we can recover these lost skills and a living sustainable culture can again become part of Kurdish society.”


Blogger Brennzn said...

Sunday CNN news stated that the violence in Iraq is much less now (that Cliff Kindy has arrived) and equal to the amount of violence during the first year of occupation.

10:23 PM  

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