This is one of three wooden screens we have hanging in our living room. They are purdah screens (which is technically redundant, because the word purdah, from the Hindi and Urdu parda, literally means screen or veil) and were brought back from Afghanistan by my in-laws in the 1960s, when they moved back to the states.
Two of them are similar and this is the third, which is quite different, although they all share a few significant characteristics. They are tessellated screens, geometric designs, made of carved wood, and held together without any additional fasteners or glue. They are held together by the way the wood is cut and carved and fitted together like a puzzle. They are a little bit fragile and there are a few pieces missing in one of them. I’d love to figure out how to repair them, but I’m afraid of doing more damage.
We went to a presentation by a woman named Ariane from an organization that does work with some of the very poorest people in two areas in Afghanistan. Their work includes education, recreation, providing meals, and vocational training including such skills as sewing and baking. They are teaching sign language to deaf children, as well as ordinary school subjects. Cathy’s mom organized the event and had a combination of Afghan and French themed refreshments at the back of the room. She also brought in a few of her Afghan dolls and had them on display. On the tag attached to this one it says,
This is the national dress of the women of Afghanistan. The bodice is embroidered in many colors and sometimes includes colored stones, bangles, or small mirrors, depending on the area from which it comes. This costume has never been covered by the chadri.
These shoes are called pizors. Searching for pictures online, I found them spelled paizar, and since this is a transliteration, it’s not surprising that there would be some variation. In any case, I haven’t found any pictures online of any as nice as these. They are from Afghanistan in the 1950s, bought by Cathy’s parents in Kabul. As you can see, they are quite sturdy looking, made of very stiff leather and with nails in the soles so they are pretty tough. They happen to be way too small for my extra wide feet and I’m not sure they would be all that comfortable in any case. The flash used when taking this picture shows the sewn decoration quite well.
I posted a photo of a purdah screen back in 2015 (see Friday, November 20, 2015) but thought I’d share a detail of another one today. This is a fancier screen than was shown then and one of two that we have in our living room with the same pattern. These two are not in as good condition as the one shown in the photo from 2015, but I really love the patina of the old wood and the puzzle-like intricacy of the pieces making up the central design. As noted with the older photograph, the outer rails and stiles of these tessellated screens are held together with mortise and tenon joints but they are held together without any other fasteners or glue.
This is one of two wooden chests that were in Cathy’s mom’s house that are from the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. This is the larger and less-fine of the two. It’s old, although we don’t really know how old, and it’s fairly “weathered” or worn. This is a detail, obviously, showing some of the carving on the front of the chest. There are two squares like this on the front with a design that I think of as a sort of fleur-de-lis, although I don’t really know what it’s meant to be. The lid to the chest has no hinge and simply lifts off. There is a metal chain and hasp that can be locked.
Turkoman Style Afghan Rug
I posted a photo of the hardwood floor in our living room (see Sunday, October 28, 2018 ) after I took up most of the wall-to-wall carpet in the room. I had left carpet under a bookcase, the large, console television, and the piano. Last weekend I finally got those last pieces up and put this Persian carpet down in the room. It’s from Afghanistan and was brought from my mother-in-law’s house. It looks really good and fits the room quite nicely, with the edges just under the sofa on one side and the television and one piano leg on the other. I have a small rug over one end so that it isn’t a tripping hazard while it gets itself flattened out again after being rolled up for a few months. The pattern is called Bukhara, named for the Turkoman city of the same name.
Tags: Afghanistan, Bokhara, Bokhara Rug, Carpet, Oriental Carpet, Persia, Persian Carpet, Red, Red and Black, Rug, Turkoman
10,000 Afghani Note
I’ve recently been going through some scanned photographs and putting labels on them. These were taken by my father-in-law in the 1950s and early 1960s in Afghanistan, a place many people could not have found on a map until the last 20 years or so. I’ve gotten so I have a pretty good idea where the different photographs were taken and I recognize some of the important personages, such as King Mohammed Zahir Shah, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran, Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin of the USSR, and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. I also have gotten familiar with many of the landmarks. On this 10,000 Afghani note (sadly not worth much) is a detail of the Great Mosque of Herat. On the reverse is the Arch of Qala-e-Bost, outside Lashkar Gah.