Donya Khorshidi English Transcript

Interviewee: Donya Khorshidi

Interview date: August 21st, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 54 min 11 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Donya: Twenty-seven years.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Donya: I live in Bushehr.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Donya: No, I think it’s been about six years since we moved here. We used to live in Shiraz, but due to circumstances, work, family, and such, we came to Bushehr.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Donya: I studied laboratory sciences at university. I’ve been working in skincare and facials for about a year.

Zahra: What type of education have you completed and where did you complete it?

Donya: I graduated from a national university. My major was Laboratory Sciences, and I’m from Fars Province.

Zahra: You mentioned your field of study?

Donya: Laboratory Sciences.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Donya: I am female.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Donya: To some extent.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Donya: No.

Zahra: Can you tell me about your extended family? How big is it?

Donya: They are quite big, like uncles and aunts. Well, my paternal family had three or four boys and girls on both sides. But recently, their numbers are decreasing.

Zahra: So, overall, there is a large population.

Donya: Recently, they are becoming fewer.

Zahra: How much connection do you feel to your immediate or extended family?

Donya: Well, when we were in Shiraz, it was much more. Now that we’ve come to Bushehr, there’s a bit of distance. But generally, the ties are such that no matter how much the distance is, they don’t forget about the family. Even if it’s the smallest occasion, we make an effort to be present. In any case, coordination happens beforehand. Due to work and life conditions, there is a distance now, and we are not there with them. They say it’s because of work and life conditions, but our absence is felt, and compared to others, yes, there is a distance. It’s not like having a specific plan, saying who will go that far or around there; we manage ourselves in any way possible.

Zahra: Where do they live?

Donya: Shiraz, some of them are in Shiraz.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Donya: No.

Zahra: What is the current income level of your household?

Donya: It’s above average.

Zahra: Do you have any religious affiliations?

Donya: No.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Donya: Being Qashqai? For me, it’s more about the Qashqai name that comes with it. In our family, it means having a strong interest in traditional clothing, like the black chador and similar things. It also brings to mind local weddings and such traditions, which are prevalent in the majority.

Zahra: Does being Qashqai have any significance for you?

Donya: In the way they taught us, I personally don’t like the racist perspective towards these stories. The emphasis has always been on the authenticity, and they have conveyed to us that being Qashqai is so authentic and rooted in tradition. These stories are presented in a way that emphasizes the Qashqai identity. The authenticity is primarily taught to us, and we are led to believe that being Qashqai is so noble and rich in these stories. This authenticity is highly highlighted. It has been ingrained in us to think that we should pay attention to ourselves because we are Qashqai, and we have a certain heritage. It’s a way of thinking that emphasizes the distinctiveness.

Zahra: Have there been times when you felt more or less Qashqai than others?

Donya: Well, nowadays, the younger generation shows less interest in certain activities and traditions. In the family context, they see me more as an authentic Qashqai girl, mainly because of my interest in traditional clothing.

Zahra: Personally, have there been times when you felt more or less Qashqai than others?

Donya: Yes, nowadays, I feel a bit more.

Zahra: Have you ever had negative or positive feelings about being Qashqai?

Donya: It has mostly been positive; I have always been interested in reading books about Qashqai, their myths, and such. My opinion has generally been positive, not negative.

Zahra: Could you share your experiences with the Qashqai community? How are you involved?

Donya: Well, since we are a Qashqai family, everyone in the family is Qashqai. Friends and acquaintances, even if they are not here, are also Qashqai. So, I feel more connected through family, and I’m not sure how to answer this question more precisely.

Zahra: For example, since you were born, have you been involved with the Qashqai community through family traditions and values?

Donya: Yes, it’s rooted in the family, with Qashqai traditions and do’s and don’ts being an integral part of our upbringing.

Zahra: Besides family, has anyone else been involved in the Qashqai community, personally or mythically, apart from family members you interact with?

Donya: Are you referring to someone mythical or a person you might interact with, like a friend?

Zahra: I mean, apart from family, is there anyone else involved in the Qashqai community, like someone you interact with personally or through their myths?

Donya: Well, someone who was bold in the Qashqai community was the late Professor Bahman Beigi. I read his books, like the one about the black chador, and gained information about him. So, yes, I’ve had personal interactions through reading about him.

Zahra: So, you’ve read books to acquire more information?

Donya: Yes, I have a general interest in history, whether it’s about the Qashqai or overall history.

Zahra: What are the traditional clothes and accessories you wear?

Donya: Those turban-like fabrics that we throw on our heads, called “Charqad,” are usually adorned with beads, tassels, and coin designs. Then there’s a cloth with a special design that is placed on the head, and the rest remains a shirt that we wear. Another thing that can be worn or not is called “Arkaluq.” It’s like a jacket, and what makes it unique is that it covers all fingers. It also has a tongue-like sleeve, and you can close it with a pin.

Zahra: Is it closed with a pin or a brooch?

Donya: It’s closed with a brooch; that cloth must have a pin. Oh, another ancient thing that you rarely see now, for example, brides use it, and it’s called “Ashrafiyeh.” It’s a kind of hat placed on top of the Charqad to secure it, and it’s called “Kolahche.” Brides used to wear it more, and they would hang coin pendants on it. Some even used seven coins for it, but I think it’s rare now. Other designs involve using threads to create a canvas-like texture, called “Gompul.” They make ornaments, typically hanging them on the arm or incorporating them into the back of the headscarf to avoid eye-catching and to prevent the scarf from sticking to the back. Sometimes, they even use these for the back of the headscarf to avoid the eyes. I remember giving my grandmother a few of these Gompuls, and she used various colors that matched her clothes, making them herself.

Zahra: What is the fabric of the clothes?

Donya: It varies; there is net, velvet, satin. Now, things have become more diverse; it depends on personal taste.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Donya: I have outfits in every color. The last one I wore was navy blue with pink. Before that, it was botanical with red and green, and even before that, it had a design with black. I have multiple outfits in various colors.

Zahra: So, do you mostly wear bright colors?

Donya: Yes, mostly. However, even the black color has its own charm with intricate designs and patterns. It has a unique sparkle and beauty. For example, my black Turkish dress has such grace and elegance that my father believes when a girl who is fair-skinned wears black, it’s like a fish shining in the dark sky at night. It was quite interesting, and it stuck with me.

Zahra: What jewelry do you wear?

Donya: For traditional clothes? Well, there’s this brooch with a pendant that usually has gold, and women wear that. Other jewelry like earrings and necklaces depends on personal taste. Qashaqai women usually don’t wear these, but Lur women wear them. They use an ornament like this pendant that hangs down. These are called “Khalkhal.” However, Qashaqai women don’t wear them. For them, a kind of brooch is used, and sometimes, I’ve seen girls fix the headscarf with something other than a pin, using these.

Zahra: Where do you get these clothes or accessories?

Donya: Mostly from the fabric stores in Vakil Bazaar. Firoozabad also has many, and I bought some from Yasuj. These types of fabrics are available there. For jewelry, there are gold shops, but sometimes you can find them in the shops in Vakil Bazaar as well.

Zahra: Do you make them yourself?

Donya: Yes, I really like designing most of our shirts. My mother is skilled at beadwork, using beads, and buttons. She usually handles these tasks, especially when it needs to be closer to the original. For example, I sketch the design of my shirt, or if I see an idea somewhere that I like, my mother does the beadwork and sewing.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Donya: Yes, most of the time, we order from those who can make what we want. Some pages even offer complete sets of clothes. They design the entire set and sell it as a complete ensemble. Many tailors in Shiraz have a few ready-made dresses that you can rent, but since we use them a lot, we prefer to buy. We don’t know if it’s okay.

Zahra: Do you buy ready-made clothes or do you buy the fabric and give it to a tailor?

Donya: We buy the fabric and give it to the tailor.

Zahra: So, you haven’t bought ready-made clothes so far?

Donya: No, I haven’t bought so far, but we can also buy that way.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Donya: These clothes are the ones that my mother has kept, like her wedding dress and such. These are special clothes for special occasions. Scarves that belonged to single girls, they have kept them. However, now, the trends and such are changing.

Zahra: What changes?

Donya: I mean, trends and new things come up. It’s really interesting. Perhaps, just like other types of clothing, local dresses also follow trends. For example, the lower hem of the skirt in the village dress might become a trend, or it could be something else each time. It’s fascinating how trends evolve. Currently, for instance, longer scarves are trending, and at other times, it might be trendy to have no scarf at all. It’s all about the fabric and the style. Recently, there was a trend with small, intricate braids. I have some pictures; I can send you one.

Zahra: Have things that your mother kept reached you, or were they just kept by her?

Donya: Definitely, they are kept so that they reach me.

Zahra: Do you buy them from a store?

Donya: No, we mostly buy fabrics from the shops in Vakil Bazaar. There are also pages that sell fabric for clothes.

Zahra: Why do you get them from the places you do?

Donya: One reason is the unique atmosphere of Vakil Bazaar, and another is the nostalgia. Because Vakil Bazaar had that feeling, and also the feeling of authenticity. The old building it has and the spices that you pass by when you are there. It has that chaos, and other adjacent stores, like those with copper utensils. One of them is a copper vessel shop that adds to the atmosphere. That shop that gives you a sense of authenticity; I don’t know if you’ve been there or not, but that historical building it has, it shows its roots. Also, the smell of the spices you pass by when there, the hustle and bustle, makes you feel good. It has a unique charm for me.

Zahra: What does traditional clothing mean to you?

Donya: For me, it truly gives a sense of authenticity, something that belongs to Qashqai people. It connects me to the past, and I find it beautiful in a way that goes back to our history. More than anything, the joy of life and all the good feelings, in my opinion, stem from the combination of colors that make it so vibrant and beautiful. The attire, with its colors and aesthetics, brings delight and excitement. I don’t know about all the details, but what’s more beautiful for me is that even after all these years, wearing it still brings me so much joy. Every time I put it on, it transforms my mood. It’s fascinating for me that this piece has been passed down from our ancestors, and even though I might not know everything about Qashqai traditions, I still have such a strong connection to it. As a young person today, I feel a responsibility to respect and understand it more. I’m even curious about things that have been lost over time, willing to learn and revive them. The authenticity I talk about is firm, but, for me, it always brings a good mood and highlights the power of tradition.

Zahra: Have these meanings changed throughout your life?

Donya: I have been wearing these clothes since I was five, and now I buy them with excitement. If anything, my connection to these clothes has grown stronger over the years.

Zahra: Does the meaning of traditional clothing change when you are in different spaces or places?

Donya: Personally, I prefer to see that attire worn for us. It has taken on the meaning that in weddings, which are places of joy and celebration, you should wear it. However, for myself, for example, in weddings that are not Turkish – meaning not everyone is wearing Turkish attire – I don’t feel like wearing it. I think it’s not appropriate. It should be worn in places where people understand the value, dignity, and significance of such things, not just anywhere. In my opinion, it makes a difference based on the context.

Zahra: For example, if the dress you wear for a wedding signifies a certain level of status and dignity, would its meaning decrease if you wear it on the street or at a different event instead of a wedding?

Donya: See, because the people present in those places, well, it depends on where you are, how should I put it… See, for example, wherever you go, it depends on the circumstances there. If you’re going to a party, then that attire fits those circumstances, or the person who invited you expects you to dress according to those conditions. Wearing such attire in inappropriate settings, in my opinion, could be considered disrespectful to the attire itself. For instance, if you’re at a party where those conditions don’t match, and you’re wearing such clothing, it might be seen as insulting to your own attire because it’s not suitable for that place. In such places, like on the street or certain environments, it’s not okay. Now, for the older generation, it’s okay for them to wear it casually as their everyday attire. They simplify the ornate aspects of the clothing for everyday wear. However, in weddings, they might wear more extravagant and vibrant colors. But personally, I don’t think it’s okay to wear it just anywhere. So, if you wear it in different spaces and places, the meaning behind the clothing can vary. Because others might not understand the significance of that attire the way it should be understood, and it might be seen as a lack of respect for its authenticity.

Zahra: Do you think some traditional clothes are more authentic than others? Why?

Donya: It depends on the design and the way it’s tailored. For example, some designs clearly indicate their vintage nature, or, for instance, some, like myself, might appreciate the extravagance of a dress in a wedding. It’s a particular feeling, and more important than the dress itself is how one wears it. In my opinion, the way a dress is worn is crucial. Some people wear dresses beautifully, while others may not know how to wear them properly. This is significant, and it becomes quite noticeable at weddings. One person might dress very elegantly, showing that they know how to wear it well, while another may just wear it without paying attention to details. You know, it depends on how they style their hair, how they arrange it, and what they wear underneath, like additional layers beneath the dress. For example, it should be paired with the right type of shoes, and if you don’t wear those or if the dress is too short, it becomes apparent. All these details contribute to the elegance of wearing the dress, and if not done properly, it can diminish the grandeur of the attire. Even the style of the handkerchief you use and how you place it matters. It all plays a role in bringing out the splendor of the dress.

Zahra: Does obtaining the dress from a specific place make it more authentic for you?

Donya: No, being more authentic depends on factors like personal taste. Some may recognize the origin of the dress, but it’s mostly subjective, and you can get it from anywhere you like.

Zahra: Does using different materials or having a specific person make the dress make it more authentic?

Donya: Well, the materials and embellishments used are undoubtedly impactful. For example, some dresses have intricate stone embellishments that make them very special. Additionally, handmade dresses are often much more expensive than those made with ready-made fabrics. The choice of fabric also plays a significant role. For instance, if the fabric is something like a special satin, it has an impact on the authenticity, value, and pricing of the dress.

Zahra: Can the person who makes the dress, like a tailor, contribute to making it more authentic?

Donya: Are you referring to the tailors?

Zahra: Yes, a tailor or anyone else who makes the dress for you.

Donya: Almost, because everyone has their own style. For example, some tailors are now well-known in this field. They are so busy that they don’t have time for individual orders and work just like other fashion designers. It has proven through experience that their work is much more chic. For instance, the fit of the dress they make is much better, or the way the dress is designed to stand is much more elegant. It all comes down to their personal taste. The tailor’s own taste is crucial. For example, if a Turkish dress is made by someone with genuine talent, it really shows. They might even suggest ideas on how to pair it with other pieces, and sometimes, it’s like we leave it to them to decide what to do and how to pair it with, and they showcase their own ideas. I used to have a page dedicated to this topic, specifically for handmade dresses. All the dresses were handmade, and the prices were a bit higher than other places. Their claim was that all the embellishments were valuable stones, and they used a lot of precious stones and even real lapis lazuli in the dresses. They justified the higher prices by the intricate stone embellishments and genuine lapis lazuli embroidery.

Zahra: If you wear the dress in different settings, does it make it more authentic?

Donya: Like?

Zahra: For example, if you wear your traditional dress in a wedding, does it make it more authentic compared to wearing it in a casual gathering?

Donya: Yeah, because weddings have other symbols for the Qashqai people, like their songs or often the black veils specifically for Qashqais, which really adds to the feeling that this is the right place. But in places where you don’t see these symbols, it feels like the right context is missing. As I mentioned, in my opinion, it becomes a form of disrespect to the authenticity of the dress itself.

Zahra: Is there any part of the “traditional” styles that you don’t wear for any reason?

Donya: No.

Zahra: So, you wear everything, like the “Arkhalooq“?

Donya: Yes, if I don’t wear a certain piece, it would still be part of a matching set. For instance, if I’m wearing a red scarf, I’ll match it with red Arkhalooq.

Zahra: How would you describe your emotions or attitudes towards traditional dresses? For example, during the creation of handicrafts?

Donya: I’m really excited about it. Getting ready for a wedding, especially if it’s an evening event like mine, brings a sense of pride and the feeling of celebration. It’s all connected to the authenticity and the traditions passed down from our ancestors. Having these elements amplifies the joy for us. Being adorned in these traditional outfits in moments of happiness multiplies the experience for us. It adds a nostalgic touch to our minds, enhancing the excitement and enthusiasm. It can be quite challenging; it’s not as easy as just buying or making a Turkish dress. Each detail has to be carefully considered, from the design of the dress to the selection of each accessory. For example, the color of every flower, how the border is adorned, the choice of ribbons for the tambourine, how the motifs are designed – everything is part of the joy. If it wasn’t for the positive vibes and authenticity, it wouldn’t have survived, and people wouldn’t continue to wear it.

Zahra: Does any other aspect of your identity affect your feelings about your traditional dress?

Donya: Personally, when I wear a Turkish dress, I feel very confident. I’m not sure why, but it may be because everyone always praised me since childhood for loving to wear this dress. My mom used to make Turkish dresses for me, and she always encouraged me. Now, other girls may not like it as much, but I’ve always insisted on having my dress unique. I feel that it significantly boosts my confidence, and when I wear a Turkish dress, there’s always a lot of admiration and compliments, maybe that’s why.

Zahra: What information have you acquired about traditional clothing through your interactions with others? For example, has your mother taught you about different types of clothing?

Donya: Initially, it was more from my mom. As I grew older, it continued, and since my aunt is also someone who loves Turkish dresses and is enthusiastic about them, I would often consult with her or go shopping with her. I really appreciate her opinions on Turkish dresses. Recently, I also explore and get ideas from Instagram.

Zahra: How do you think society promotes messages about traditional clothing? How do you relate to these messages?

Donya: There are some groups that work on these stories, playing and singing Qashqai songs. In their concerts, the ladies wear Turkish dresses, and all the performers are in Turkish attire. I personally enjoy this aspect of the story. There, everyone understands each other, and I really enjoy the atmosphere with these dresses, the traditional clothing, and everyone knowing that I love these gatherings. I’ve seen that recently it’s becoming more popular. There are groups that organize concerts, playing Qashqai songs, and performers wearing Qashqai dresses. Some singers, for example, have concerts where they play Qashqai songs, and most of the ladies attending these events wear local dresses. Some of my relatives are also involved in these groups, playing instruments like the guitar. I’ve seen that in some places where they are invited for performances, they wear the local dress, and the ceremonies are held with traditional attire. It’s really cool.

Zahra: How do you stay informed about these concerts or gatherings?

Donya: Mainly through social media.

Zahra: What barriers are there to obtaining and wearing traditional dress?

Donya: The high cost and time-consuming nature are significant obstacles. For example, if we have a non-Qashqai event, you can get a dress in half an hour. But when it comes to Turkish dresses, especially for us in Bushehr, it takes about a week because you have to go to Shiraz, and I heard that there are even places where you have to go around the bazaars and lawyers. It’s not like you can just ask for it and get it immediately. The whole process, including dealing with tailors who may not be cooperative, takes time. You really have to dedicate time to it.

Zahra: Can you share images of you wearing different traditional dress? As many as you’d like to share, but up to 10. For each image can you share: Where you are at in the image? Why are you wearing the traditional dress in that place? Is there any special meaning you have for this space or traditional dress in the image? (See Figures 1, 2, and 3)

Donya: They are all weddings. We only wear it for weddings. The location is Shiraz. Usually everyone wears it at weddings.

Zahra: Is there anything else about yourself, being a Qashqai and wearing traditional clothing, that you would like to share?

Donya: I just want to say that I personally have a great interest in traditional and antique things. I love trying even the traditional clothes of Kurds and many other ethnicities. I get excited about these things, especially when I go to places where things are traditional. It gives me a much better feeling, and it aligns with my personality type. I really enjoy it. Also, being a Turk myself and growing up with this culture makes it even better.


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Qashqai Traditional Dress: An Oral History Project Copyright © 2024 by Zahra Falsafi and Kelly L. Reddy-Best is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.