The Amazing Diversity of Peasant & Nomad Bag Faces

A noteworthy exhibition featuring more than 100 antique tribal and village bags and bag faces from Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan and the Caucasus. Highly collectable, these containers were both practical necessities and bold and colorful works of art which simultaneously celebrate the weaver’s skill and tribal identity.

photo of a bag faceFrom the Mediterranean shores to the mountains of Afghanistan, the tribes and villages of the Islamic world produced an astonishing variety of textile bags and containers for every conceivable purpose. This fact gives testimony to the requirements of storage and mobility in a mostly arid environment, coupled with a weaving tradition that had evolved from the earliest stirrings of civilization. Overlying these practical considerations was a native love of color and design. The result of this synthesis is a wide-ranging collection of textiles highly prized by collectors and connoisseurs throughout much of the world. Many of the finest bag faces not only embody distinctive tribal and geographic characteristics, but social considerations as well: a young women demonstrated her weaving skills, thus enhancing her value to a future husband. Women often brought to their marriages a variety of bags and containers designed to be used in their new lives. Saddle bags, for example, were often a present to the bridegroom. It takes little imagination to understand the care and pride with which such textiles were woven.

reverse sumac weftwrapping

“Reverse Soumak” weftwrapping

The many pieces in this exhibit are constructed in a variety of techniques: knotted pile, tapestry weave, brocading, soumak weft-wrapping, tufting, reverse-brocading, and in many examples a combination of techniques. Some bag faces illustrate a nearly complete vocabulary of a given tribe’s design portfolio. Thus, a collector can capture in miniature the culture of a tribe or ethnic group in a way that is both efficient and relatively affordable. In addition to saddle bags and tent bags, this exhibit includes examples of bedding bags, grain bags, salt bags, purses, bags for tent poles, bags designed to hold loaves of bread for wedding rituals, bags for jewelry, as well as bags for every conceivable type of storage, including some of purely speculative function.

While bags are still being produced, most of the better examples are antique or semi-antique, and exist for the most part in collections, which are the principal source of the pieces which appear from time to time on the market. Without such collections, this exhibition would have been impossible. Our gratitude for this generosity in sharing these prized possessions is sincere and beyond easy expression.

photo of the 3 woven bags