Information about Baluchi
Following text is focused on information for people who are interested in Baluch textiles (also known as textiles from Balouch, Beluch, Belouch, Beludj, Baloc, Belutsch etc.)
In the same time there is to note already from beginning that one knows not much authentic information about the people who made this beautiful textiles.
Although there exist textile collections from all different regions since beginning of 20thcentury (or earlier) a serious collecting from so called "Baluch Textiles" started in the mid of 1970s. As collector from other rug groups do, Baluch collectors would like to know more about the weavers, their history and daily life. Unfortunately there was not much to found about. Due to the political situation in this region it is rather clear that there will be not more information to be find about in future too.
Why do we have so less information about Baluchi:
Collectors classified the focused textiles because of some specific attributes and name their “producers” Baluchi what is maybe from the ethnographic point of view not really correct.
Following the definition from textile collectors the “Baluchi” were nomadic tribal which lived in the border area from at least four different states, in Irans northeast (Korassan) and southeast (Sistan), in northwest Afghanistan, in Turkmenistan and Pakistan (there especially in the region of Baluchistan).
Baluchis are a mixture of several races and have their own languages but none of them can be written. Means there exist no written documents made from Baluchi.
It was difficult to describe them from the point of view of other cultures as it looks like the tribal splits their groups after short time and renamed the new built group often.
It is to suppose that the governments of this four nations didn't spoken well of Baluchi as one can imagine that this poor nomads not really accepted authorities, caused them troubles and they took from the nations more than they payed taxes.
As a conclusion, Baluchi were economical not an interesting group, they were physically not to control, they were not easy to find and recover, they didn't wrote in own language, so there were enough reasons not to engage in describing history an life from them.
What kind of textiles do Baluchi produce?
Jeff W. Boucher answered this question in a short article about Baluchi¹ :
“Only a small portion of the Baluchi population weave rugs. Currently, women and girls in Baluchi groups living in the Sistan area and northward in Khorasan to Sarakhs account for most of the production of pile rugs.
The tribes of Baluchistan weave only flat-woven items and a few pile items, primarily for their own use. These are generally unattractive, loosely woven, of very poor and dull colors, and are rarely seen outside the areas where they are made.
The greatest Persian production, as well as the highest sustained weaving quality, comes from the Torbat-e-Haidari, Torbat-e-Jam, Nishapur and Sarakhs areas of Khorasan and from the vicinity of Zabol in Sistan to the south. Nearly all of these rugs are shipped to Mashad for marketing.
In western Afghanistan, according to Alfred Janata, the Aimaq, a Farsi speaking Sunni people of some five hundred clan names, weave the rugs known until recently as "Herat" and "Adraskand" Baluchi. The best quality weaving can be assigned to about forty Timuri clans, approximately twelve of which live in northeastern Persia as well as northwestern Afghanistan. Two of the best-known clans of this latter group are the Yaqub-Khani of the Zurabad area and the Dokhtar-e-Ghazi of northwest Afghanistan.
Some clans categorized as Aimaq also include persons of Turkic, Persian, Mongol and Arab extraction, which could account for some of their weavings being Turkish as well as Persian knotted.“
Why one start not earlier to collect Baluch textiles?
It looks like the first rug importer didn't found Baluchtextiles worth for import them in bigger number (?) and definitely not under the label “Baluch”.
Maybe Baluch rugs were seen from them, but also from Collectors and Museums, as a (less interesting) subgroup from Turkmen rugs, Kurd rugs etc. which are made in less good quality?
Maybe Baluch textiles were not made for sale, so they didn't appear in the textile markets were rug importers bought their stuff.
Maybe quality, size and design didn't fit whit the taste of western people, so they were not bought from the importer.
What are reasons to see Baluch rugs nevertheless as an independent group in point of view from textile collectors?
Hans Ritter, Chairman of a Baluch Collectors Group located in Middle Europe, answered this question in his speech held on 40thVolkmanntreffen in Berlin 2011². He presented a thesis in which he is describing four characteristics which are only to be find in Baluch textiles. Four characteristics who could confirm that Baluch textiles are a independent group of textiles.
H. Ritter said: ”... To this day the rugs and flatweaves of the "Baluch" have not found the recognition among rug collectors which they actually deserve. And this despite the fact that the rugs and flatweaves made by the "Baluch" show a degree of independence which is quite comparable to that of other, "well-respected"tribes such as the Afshar, Qashqa'i, Khamseh, Bachtiari, Kurds, etc. For supporting my thesis I wish to discuss the weavings of the "Baluch" with respect to four different aspects. These are 1.) Technical aspects, 2.) The colour scheme, 3.) "Baluch" motifs and designs, and 4.) Design principles.
1. Technical aspects
Among other technical peculiarities of "Baluch" weavings it is striking that "Baluch" weavers used a combination of techniques, primarily for producing flatweaves, which is very specific for "Baluch" work and which has not been used, or only very rarely so, by tribes who did not weave in the Baluch tradition. The most important of these techniques are: a) patterned stripes in weft substitution weave, b) so called two-coloured "wrapped and bound borders" which are typically used for framing the weft substitution stripes, and c) multi-coloured stripes in weft-faced plain weave with colours changing in weftdirection, thereby forming either diagonal stripes or a zigzag pattern, and with colour changes in the form of small rectangular "teeth" in weft substitution weave. It is mainly the combination of these techniques which distinguishes "Baluch" flatweaves and the broad flatwoven ends of "Baluch" rugs from weavings of other origin. These techniques are not only specific for "Baluch" weavings, but some are also (so far) without any known model.
2. The colour scheme
If there is one characteristic property of "Baluch" weavingsbased on which they can be distinguished with some certainty from weavings of other provenances (e.g. from Turkoman rugs), it is the colour scheme. On "Baluch" rugs the primary colour is typically dark blue with different shades of red and the colour of camel wool as secondary colours. White is used, if at all, only in small quantities, mainly for highlighting details, and often with striking effect. The prototypical "Baluch" rug is characterized by a dark blue main field with motifs end designs in different shades of red and brown, a red-ground main border and the sparing use of white for highlights. In place of dark blue one finds occasionally also camel hair, red, brown, purple and, rarely, white as a ground colour. In this context it is important to note that also the colour scheme of "Baluch" weavings is unique and without a recognizable model.
3. "Baluch" motifs and designs
There is no question that in their rugs "Baluch" tribes have used an almost uncountable number of motifs and designs of obviously "foreign” origin. A well-known and popular example is the frequent use of the Mina Khani design in the main field. However, apart from the numerous "foreign" motifs and designs, and of motifs which clearly have been derived from them, there are also quite a number of motifs and designs for which we are unable to identify a "foreign" model and which, therefore, have to be considered as genuine motifs and designs of the Baluch tradition. Among them are e.g. the prototypical Baluch tree of life, various forms of birds, a design which is usually referred to as star octogon, tile designs, rectangular cassettes which are outlined by an endless knot design, and quite a number of other motifs which cannot be mentioned here in detail because of brevity. Again it is important to note that “Baluch" weavers did not only copy or adapt "foreign"motifs and designs, but that their tradition also includes numerous motifs and designs of their own.
4. Design principles
Ignoring for the moment the numerous prayer rugs, the by far most popular design principle is that of an all over design composed of offset rows of typically one or two, occasionally also more, relatively small motifs with colours changing in diagonal direction, mostly running from top 1eftto bottom right. Furthermore, it is striking that apart from prayer rugs directional designs are almost completely missing. The same holds also for centralized designs (with the exception a some Arab rugs which probably have been produced under Afshar influence). Furthermore, there are numerous rugs whose design clearly follows Persian workshop models, e.g. the Herati or the Mina Khani design. In addition, many "Baluch" rugs show designs which obviously have been copied from Thrkoman weavings. It is this last fact which has led to the widespread misinterpretation that the "Baluch" learned weaving pile carpets from Turkoman tribes.
Finally, the prayer rugs: They are characterized by a number of peculiarities, among them a rectangular prayer niche, the frequent use of camel wool in the main field, and a directional design in the form of a "tree of life" ascending from the bottom towards the prayer niche, and whose special form is found only on "Baluch" rugs.
"Baluch" weavings show many more design peculiarities which cannot be discussed here in further detail because of brevity. What is important in this context is that also with respect to design principles "Baluch" weavings show a considerable degree of independence.
What are we to make of all this? The high degree of independence of the Baluch tradition from that of other tribes, on the one hand, and the well-known adherence to tradition of tribal societies in general and of "Baluch" tribes in particular are compatible with each other only if one accepts that the roots of this tradition reach way back into the past. In other words: the Baluch tradition must be very old, comparable to that of other rug weaving traditions. This alone should be reason enough for taking the rugs and flatweaves of the "Baluch" seriously at last.”
¹ The Chicago Rug Society (Illinois 1993): Mideast Meets Midwest, p.21-24 "The Baluchis and their rugs"
² Hans Ritter (Munich 2011): Baluch - taken seriously, Speech on 40th Volkmanntreffen in Berlin