The wetland marshes in the middle and lower basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq comprise a complex of shallow freshwater lakes, marshes and seasonally inundated floodplains. These marshes have provided a home for the Ma’dan or Marsh Arabs for at least 5000 years. The majority are Shiite Muslims and in addition to their Islamic faith,the Ma’dan still held a number of pre-Islamic or extra-Islamic beliefs from the existence of strange monsters in the marshes to that of bewitched isles.They live in semi permanent reed or mudbrick houses that were built on artificial islands made from layers of mats,reeds and mud.
Elaborately embroidered by young Ma’dan girls for their marriage beds and sometimes by mothers for their sons.The most common examples are comparatively lightly embroidered but those most prized are heavily embroidered over their entire surface with a multitude of colorful patterns.
All weavers agree that the major part of these designs are abstract adaptations of those found in the local environment such as the frog, scorpion, date palm, dome or minaret. Each small group or village use different designs that indicate the origins of the weaver,but a single design is often assigned an entirely different significance by different weavers.In the last decades there is an increasing use of small, more or less realistic representations of men, women, animals, birds, flowers and mosques.
The embroidered blankets are often especially inventive in combining the geometric and small figurative and all are made without drawn patterns of any kind. Each weaver keeps in her head the position and size of the patterns she wishes to appear on the finished work and weaves or embroiders accordingly.
The finest collection of Iraqi embroidered blankets was assembled by Agatha Christie.
Material: 100% hand-spun sheep wool
Size: 265×80 cms
Origin: Madan or Marsh Arabs, Irak
Date of weaving: 1960s
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