Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The good bits, part I

I was hired to assist with a small, documentary film production here in Doha, as someone who knows about textiles. There were to be historical reconstruction scenes, and I was meant to help the art department and wardrobe with authenticity of detail in traditional handicrafts and costumes.
This sounds very promising and somewhat glamourous. However, a bit of a gap developed between what I was hired to do, and what I ended up doing. A rather large gap, in fact. Since no one comes here to listen to me complain, I'm going to gloss over all that. Suffice to say that I have learned that I am not personally interested in working with film production in the future.
Skipping directly to the good bits, ie, the textiles I got to see, learn about, and in some cases, wrangle:
These first images are from the Sheikh Faisal al Thani Museum, an extensive (make that "stunningly massive") private collection viewed by appointment, which includes not only textiles but cars, boats, and weaponry. I only saw these pieces behind glass.
I absolutely love this display. A child's tunic and vest from India, and fabulous glass beads from... somewhere. The whole room of costumery was a demonstration of the intermingling of people in the Gulf. The clothing displayed, all of which could have been worn in Qatar at some time, was from Turkey, Afghanistan, the Levant, India, China, and all points in between. The hand-sewn, metal-beaded jacket below, from Central Saudi Arabia, struck me because of its resemblance to Akha clothing in southern China and Thailand.
There were many dresses and jelebiya decorated with dense chain-stitch embroidery, which was identified as typically Yemeni (and yes, is very similar to embroidery from Kutch, Gujarat.)
Among the costumes I got to handle were some more embellished Yemeni dresses, with an intricate couching of braided white cord, and silver-wrapped smocking. (These were not used in the film, because they are not actually from Qatar.)
Even the most basic of textiles had surprising and intriguing details. For example, this handspun, handwoven, weft-faced, heavy men's robe was made with such gunky wool! All the stuff I try to pick out while I'm spinning is still in there - look at all that gunk!
A second woolen robe, of finer, cleaner wool, is stitched with handspun camel hair:
This sweet embroidered child's cap also has camel hair wound around the tassels. This again in the Yemeni style - a wonderfully dense embroidery using a variety of stitches.
Finally, the pieces that made me nearly pass out. A thobe al nashal, a woman's decorated robe, from the collection of the National Museum of Qatar. At least 50 years old, this piece is covered with gold embroidery of impeccable craftsmanship. It's a large, voluminous robe, but I could only get detail shots because I was merely transporting it, and terrified of inflicting any damage.
And this bukhnaq, a head covering, also from the National Museum. The scarf is sheer, but the embroidered part is heavy, as if there is actual metal content in the threads. Looking closely, you can see two tones, gold and silver. This and the above piece were both bade in Qatar, and this type of gold, chain-stitch embroidery was continued up until quite recently, albeit in a much less exquisite form.
The last image is a detail from a contemporary piece, a thobe al nashal made from gold-embroidered silk from India (from a private collection.) This robe is worn during the henna night, when a bride's hands and feet are decorated with henna prior to her wedding.

So yes, I definitely got some good textile exposure out of the deal.
More to come - costumes on actual people! (Had to get all these detail shots out of my system, before moving on to the larger picture.)


Jo said...


Laura said...

Thank you so much for sharing these treasures with us. I visit and revisit this blog entry just for the pleasure of looking at these beautiful items.