For centuries, the Kurdish people made and enjoyed objects that helped support their nomadic tribal lifestyle. The most beautiful of these are the colorful textiles woven by Kurdish women from the wool of domestic animals like goats and sheep that their families tended as they roamed through what now are the modern states of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Today, however, the weaving of Kurdish tribal textiles is considered a dying art.
The skills have disappeared due to an abundance of imported cheap synthetics and the difficulties associated with living in the midst of an almost constant state of war in the Middle East. And because the textiles made in the past were used for everything from food bags to rugs to sit on, they did not last and are now especially rare.
In 2016, a desire to better understand and document the
rich history of Kurdish textiles led Reyhane Mirabootalebi, an Iranian
objects and textiles conservator who was working in Australia, to the
Ph.D. program in Preservation Studies at the University of Delaware. Her
topic is the Preservation of Traditional Textiles Among War-Affected
Communities, which, like Kurdish textiles generally, has not been well
studied. Reyhane is especially interested in the oldest existing
textiles, which were made between the 17 and 19th centuries and today
are found primarily in private and public collections.