April 07, 2012

People of the Wind

I watched the 1976 documentary film People of the Wind about a nomadic people group and their flocks in Iran who cross a mountain range to get from their winter to their summer pastures.  The concept is much the same as the 1925 documentary Grass: a Nation's Battle for Life.  (I posted about that film when I saw it a couple of years ago.)

Again you see Turkish spindles spun suspended.  This time the woman is standing up while spinning.  The camera shows a closeup of the unspun wool threaded through the fingers of her left hand.  I would speculate that the wool has been put through a Tartar comb, given its short length of about ten inches and given the spinner's location and the firmly woven, rug-like cloth in tents, straps, bags, and coats.  Her right hand touches the Turkish spindle's cross bars, not the shaft, to get the spindle turning.  I believe she spins clockwise.

There are two scenes that show weaving on horizontal looms.  A man weaves inside a village building, weaving while negotiating with a customer who's in the market for a coat.  Out in the country, outdoors, women weave together on a coarse warp.  The uprights of their loom look like tree trunks four inches in diameter, very rustic.

I wish I'd watched the weaving more carefully.  I got the impression that one of the woman was opening a shed with some difficulty.  If I have it correct the village loom had treadles, the country one did not.  In both cases the warp was the maximum width to weave comfortably by hand unassisted, about 30 inches.  The man was weaving a pattern with light and dark wool, putting the shuttle only partway across the warp the way colours are done in tapestry.

Most of the shepherds wore the same sort of short sleeve, knee-length shapeless coat in light wool with dark geometric accents.  I kept trying to figure out the construction.  Footage of spinning and weaving was aggravatingly brief; the coats were there the bulk of the movie and kept me interested.  Is that a pleat under the armhole?  Are the fronts loom-shaped?  Is the back made of two pieces stacked one above the other with weft running vertically?  I'm certain I saw a seam across the back at the waist.  The dark geometric accents run vertically.  They are like thick dark stripes that come down from the shoulders but they don't go all the way down and they end at different places.  Like blunt icicles.

The sheep are a fat tail type.  The narrator says that the sheep do better when moved from pasture to pasture.  He says the settled people that he knows are poor herdsmen.  He also talks about debt and dealing with middlemen.  (I recently watched the 2009 documentary Ingredients and the shepherd there had similarly negative experiences selling to middlemen who set the conditions of trade.  I think he was in Oregon.)

In People of the Wind, the camera shows and the narrator describes some actions that would be illegal here.  It's not gratuitous, it all has to do with the migration, but it's unpleasant.

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