- Title: IRAQ: Villagers in Iraq's Kurdish region uphold ancient weaving traditions
- Date: 24th January 2008
- Summary: CLOSE OF WOMEN WORKING MEN WEAVING AND WOMEN SPINNING HAIR OF GOAT WITH SPINDLE
- Embargoed: 8th February 2008 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Industry,Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA5HQ2744UQ6ZN8OI1DCQM8YHLK
- Story Text: Whole families in an Assyrian Christian village in Iraq's Kurdish region participate in an ancient skill for which the village has long been famous throughout the region: the weaving of fabric used to make traditional Kurdish costumes.
In a remote village in the mountains of Iraq's northern Kurdish region, streets are lined with frames around which dyed threads are wound and left to dry.
Almost every family in the village of Bersivey makes its living from the profession for which the village has become famous: the weaving of goat hair into fabric used to make traditional Kurdish men's costumes.
Bersivey, 17 kilometers northeast of Zakho close to the Iraqi-Turkish border, is inhabited by Assyrian Christians. It is home to some 200 families, in which children and adults alike participate in the weaving process which has been passed down from one generation to the next over hundreds of years.
"We, the people of Bersivey village, which is a Christian village -- or rather an Assyrian village -- work in the field of weaving. Our fathers and forefathers worked in this profession before us. We have been working in this profession for a long time, the exact time is not known, but for over 200 years. We buy wool from goat farmers and specifically from those who breed a type of goat known here as the 'chour' goat, not just any kind of goat,"
said one Bersivey resident.
The distinctive striped or block-coloured material is used to make Kurdish men's traditional "shal," or shirt, and "Shapek,"
a pantaloon-type garment.
"It is very tiring work, and even children take part in it, as well as the father and the mother. Every member of the family has something to do, even the children, not just the adults," the resident added.
Every stage of the lengthy fabric making process is conducted by hand in Bersivey. Shorn goat hair is washed and then softened by pounding with a wooden paddle, then hung to dry. The strands are then vigourously combed, separated, then formed into bundles. The hair is then spun into thread using a spindle, then dyed, dried and woven into fabric using wooden looms. The resulting material is a long narrow panel of fabric.
"Sometimes we get merchants from Turkey, Iran and Syria -- Kurds -- who buy from us. These costumes are worn only by Kurds and Assyrians. They are very expensive, and take a long time to make. It takes us a month, a month and a half, to make (fabric for) one suit," said Ishaq Sheemon Sada, who has been a weaver since childhood.
Assyrians, an ethnic group whose origins lie in what are today Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and who are mostly Christian, wear the traditional Kurdish costume in Iraq's Kurdish region but not in Assyrian communities elsewhere.
Good quality Bersivey handmade cloth can fetch high prices, says Jameel Boustingi, who owns a shop which sells traditional fabric and traditional Kurdish men's suits.
"The price of a tailored suit ranges between 400 to 700 (U.S.) dollars. These costumes are distinguished from the suits and fashions of the rest of the world. Twelve metres of fabric are needed to make one (traditional Kurdish) suit, and we can say that this costume is a symbol of Kurdish identity," Boustingi said.
Traditionally, Kurdish men in Iraq wear the "shal" tied in the front over an undershirt, and the suit is finished off with a wide sash, into which a dagger is fitted. Kurdish women wear colourful, billowing skirts and blouses.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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