Wednesday, 29 May 2013

To Iran and Back via Wembley Part II: The Janamaz

I have noticed that it is quite a while since my last post.
I haven't been idle: very shortly there should be posts about both recent and past things as well as the outcomes of my  textile/jewellery efforts and experiments of late. But as I don't like to leave things unfinished either, let's try and post the remaining planned ''instalments''of my journey(s) to Iran saga. This is also meant as a little tribute to my mother in law who passed away last summer before we could meet her for a second time.
Mother in Law Khanum Masoumeh with  grand-daughters Sara and Maryam

So here we are:

The time has now come to continue with the tale of my (first) trip to Iran. Unfortunately, I had overestimated both my skills (or speed rather) in dressmaking and my ability to follow the English advice to 'keep calm and carry on', behaving instead according to my much more emotional mediterranian roots. In other words I panicked, which is never conducive to finishing projects. The tunic was eventually finished but much later.

It is worth saying that it wouldn't be of  much use to me  in Iran, because it turned out to be 'unsuitable':
Iranian ladies know how to dress very smartly and sexy either, by playing with the rules of the current dress-code, (how you might have been able to glimpse from my previous Iranian post).  I was, and still am, quite illiterate in that respect. It had short sleeves (not allowed) the neckline fell on the wrong place, too short in one way and too long in another...
Therefore there were still my clothes (and Sara's) to think about and get hold of, the hijab (scarves and  implements to help wearing them), the suitcases, the presents, ordinary life and engagements, and most importantly my 'other project':  the embroidered Janamaz for my mother in law!

The first janamaz that was sent to Sara as a present

Another janamaz that we brought back from Iran with the mehr and tasbeh

Few years ago she had sent what I was told was a 'janamaz', as a present for Sara:

The term is a bit misleading, because a janamaz is actually a portable prayer mat, that follows a very specific design:

but the word's meaning  has been extended to include the 'kit' that goes with it, the prayer stone (mehr), the rosary (tasbeh) and the little case where you carry the stone.
So an idea had clicked then in my mind that I wanted to give her one of these little wrappings specifically designed and made for her.
Something that would link who I was to who she was, and help us connect through a universal language: that of feminine labour, colour, design, hopes, aspirations and beliefs. And one that obviously carries the unspoken words of longing, separation, love and loss and our attempt to 'mend' these conditions.

Embroidery on canvas mounted onto batik fabric

the back of the janamaz showing the hand-stamped pocket to carry the prayer stone,
These pictures were taken in Teheran, the day before meeting her in Amol and  present her with it. I didn't have the time to take them in London, the ''thing'' was finished on the morning before the flight. The embroidery was a design on canvas that evolved from a basic pattern taken from the book 'Canvas Embroidery' by Peggy Field and June Linsley (London, 1990), a book I came across while doing my City and Guilds, and which is one of the best embroidery books in my possession. I had already used the pattern in similar colours to make a needlecase and I adapted it once more to make the 'janamaz'.
The canvas was attached to a backing made out of a cotton batik fabric to which the pocket was applied. The pocket fabric had been hand painted and over stamped by me using little wooden Indian blocks.

To be continued...

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