Two years ago, on a memorable vernal Kooch with the nomads, Tala, a hospitable and hardworking nomad woman, gifted a handwoven purse to our dear traveler, Eva, whose birthday happened to be on one of the days of our journey. The purse had a Chogha design. A black and white nomadic pattern with a symbolic significance (that of the victory of light over darkness; good over evil).
When the gift was given, an idea was born in our minds. “These purses with these unique designs should be a THING” we thought! “They bear tradition and narration of a certain local perspective on them. They tell a story” and so the least we could do was to give them their well-deserved platform for storytelling. To promote nomad women’s unique art, we put a few samples in IRANomad house, where we used to work at the time and receive guests and travelers there. Every once in a while an Iranian guest or a foreign traveler would admire one piece or another and ask about it. We were always more than happy to explain about nomadic handicrafts and sell them for the nomads. But the more handicrafts we sold the more certain we were that it wasn’t enough. That these artworks deserved more recognition than just an occasional praising look of a passerby. Sure enough, as is many times the way with the universe, an opportunity rose for us to address our concern and promote nomadic art more than before: The Oxford Event
Sina, one of our Iranian friends who is a student at Oxford and who has bonded with our team through the subject of his thesis, had an idea for an upcoming event in Oxford at the time. Deeply concerned about local communities and empowering them, he thought of giving the event’s handouts to the attendees in nomadic bags. He discussed the idea with the event’s coordinator and after getting their kind consent and support and after consulting it further with us, it was decided that we order a large number of bags to nomadic women of Khoye village and add some nomadic touch to the event.
We got to work right away. We asked the women of Khoye (by visiting each family one by one) to weave more bags with Chogha design so we could promote them abroad and introduce their unique art to the world! You should’ve been there and seen the blushed pride on their sunburnt faces. There was a lot to do and we had to get right to work. It was winter and roads were frozen over or filled with snow especially on the way to the village our artists lived. We couldn’t even get to the village with off-road cars to provide them with enough material for their work. Transportation and communication were both very difficult. So you can imagine what we all went through to communicate our message, place our orders with details that were sometimes forgotten and sometimes changed by the pleasantly peculiar nomads.
A recurring problem for instance was that even though we had ordered all the bags to be alike, nomads still made them each different in one way or another, believing that it would be boring if they all looked alike! They didn’t like monotony and we inevitably made our peace with that.
Measuring was another issue since most of these women didn’t have any measuring device for weaving except for pieces of wood, the edge of their scarves or simply their hands.
We also had to make sure that all women were included in the project since even the elderly nomads wished to take part in the activity and contribute to what was considered a women-only project in the village, something that they could do without help from or interference of men. Something that could make their names known on their own. Not as an associate of men.
Story short, we finally received the precious bags and sent them to Sina who was kind and concerned enough to present them in Oxford university and explain the philosophy of their design. Attendees were quite impressed with and interested in the bags and especially the philosophy. They even seemed to like the fact that each bag looked a bit different than the others, giving them the impression of uniqueness and authenticity!
These small achievements aimed at empowering nomad women taught us a lot about them. We turned to them for a women-only project only to find them already prepared to give it their all and cooperate for a communal goal. We saw their coy faces glow with hope and confidence while receiving our message and our orders. There was finally something they could do to help them be financially more independent. Something that made them feel seen and appreciated. Even after the orders were all ready and sent, they would frequently ask us about the bags and if their recipients liked them. It was a big deal to them and to us.
Now after receiving a lot of shopping orders for different handicrafts, nomad women have got used to this channel of artistic expression and financial independence and are dependent on it. This sense of empowerment has made them feel more self-confident than ever. So we’ve made it a common business task to receive your orders and have nomad women weave your special handicraft(s) with your preferred size or colors. You only need to reach out to us and place an order and after the weaving process is over, your order will be posted to you.
We assure you that, as always, most of the payment will go directly to the nomad woman who has woven your handicraft.