Mandana Dehghan English Transcript

Interviewee: Mandana Dehghan

Interview date: August 17th, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 21 min 48 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Mandana: Thirty-one.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Mandana: I’m in Russia, studying as a university student.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Mandana: No, I went there a year ago. I used to live in Shiraz.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Mandana: I am a student.

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

Mandana: I studied microbiology for my bachelor’s degree at the Azad University of Kazeroon, Shiraz, Fars Province. Currently, I have been studying dentistry in Russia for a year.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Mandana: Female.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Mandana: No.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Mandana: No.

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

Mandana: Turks, you know they had many family marriages. Just that their population was large. Well, from my paternal side, there are ten people. I have five aunts and four uncles. From my maternal side, I think there are three aunts, I mean three sisters, and four brothers. Seven in total.

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

Mandana: Very close because from both sides, my father and mother, I was the daughter of aunts and uncles. I am related to both sides of the family, both paternal and maternal. We have a lot of interactions.

Zahra: Where do they live?

Mandana: Shiraz, mostly in Shiraz. Almost all of them are in Shiraz. There are very few who migrated, but they are all in Shiraz.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Mandana: No.

Zahra: What is your current household income level?

Mandana: Average to above average.

Zahra: Do you have any religious affiliations?

Mandana: No.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Mandana: I’m not exactly sure what you mean by being Qashqai, but whenever the term comes up, I proudly declare that I am Qashqai because we grew up in a family like this. In a way, it represents our authenticity, and we all genuinely take pride in it because it has deep roots in history. Being very authentic, full of hardworking and down-to-earth personalities, it’s something I truly take pride in.

Zahra: Was there a time when you felt more or less Qashqai than others?

Mandana: There have been times, for example, when we were in a group, and someone said they were Qashqai, but only their mother or father was, or they couldn’t speak Turkish well, or they didn’t know certain Qashqai cultures. Still, they claimed to be Qashqai. Yes, in those situations, I felt like I was more Qashqai, but in situations where I felt less, I think I haven’t encountered such situations yet.

Zahra: Have you ever felt negatively or positively about being Qashqai?

Mandana: No negative feelings, but I have always had positive feelings. Despite the fact that society has somewhat changed their perspective, they think that if you wear Qashqai or Turkish clothes, they might perceive it differently, as if you came from behind the mountains or you’re from a certain rural area. Despite this, I have never felt this way. Despite my grandfather being from a tribe, I’ve always liked this story. No, I have never felt negative, always positive.

Zahra: Tell me about your experiences with the Qashqai community. How are you involved?

Mandana: See, in Fars province, because it’s not like Tabriz or other places where the whole city speaks Turkish, in Tabriz or other cities where Turkish is widely spoken, you go to a supermarket, and everyone speaks Turkish. But in Fars province, it has been very few compared to the Fars people, and because of this, both in our culture and in our language, it has been mixed with Persian. Especially in the new generation, it has been influenced. But always, it has been involved, especially in our culture and language. It’s challenging, and in recent years, people have become more interested in preserving their language and culture.

Zahra: So, can I say that you realized someone is Qashqai when you saw them and maybe contacted them?

Mandana: Yes, absolutely. It’s like seeing a family member. It’s like having a lot in common. It’s a very nice feeling.

Zahra: What are the traditional garments and accessories that you wear?

Mandana: The clothes include a headscarf, first a small scarf tied on the head, then a larger scarf wrapped around it. There’s a shirt, sometimes in winter, they add a coat made of the same fabric, called “Arkhalegh,” typically worn during winters. Next is the layered skirt; the more layers, the more beautiful and elegant it is. They wear multiple layers to make it look puffier and more stylish. A pin is used to fasten the scarves, and brides also make a necklace out of beads to wear during ceremonies, indicating their newlywed status.

Zahra: What are the materials of the garments?

Mandana: The fabrics used are diverse, including silk, satin, and tulle. They are adorned with stone and hand embroidery.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Mandana: People wear all colors, but generally, the brighter the color, the more beautiful it looks. Most people prefer vibrant colors.

Zahra: What jewelry do you wear?

Mandana: Jewelry varies, mainly matching the regional dress, such as the pin I mentioned earlier, along with the necklace. Besides that, people wear bracelets, watches, rings, and earrings—whatever one prefers.

Zahra: Where do you get these garments or accessories?

Mandana: Fabrics are typically purchased from fabric shops, mostly located in Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz, particularly in Saadi Cinema. As for jewelry, it is bought from goldsmiths.

Zahra: Do you make them?

Mandana: Yes, for example, we do beadwork on scarves and some designs on the fabric. We may also do the embroidery ourselves on simple fabric to create the desired patterns.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Mandana: Yes, others also make them, especially those who are more skilled and often Turkish themselves. However, even non-Turkish individuals have been known to sew and work on them.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Mandana: In the past, it was common for them to be passed down from the grandmother to the daughter or the bride, but nowadays, people usually procure them on their own.

Zahra: Do you buy them from stores?

Mandana: Yes.

Zahra: Why do you choose these specific places for your purchases?

Mandana: Because the fabrics we choose for local dresses are usually vibrant and intricately designed. Not all places have these fabrics; they are only available in specific stores, so we are compelled to buy from those shops.

Zahra: What meanings do the traditional dress have for you?

Mandana: Traditional clothing signifies authenticity and a sense of nostalgia for me. Growing up in this culture since childhood, there’s a nostalgic feeling associated with wearing these clothes. When you put them on, it’s a sweet experience.

Zahra: Have these meanings changed over your lifetime?

Mandana: Not for me, but I see some changes in the younger generation. There’s a bit of discomfort because these clothes are not very comfortable. They are heavy, and maintaining them during ceremonies that last for hours can be challenging. Therefore, the younger generation might find them a bit inconvenient.

Zahra: Do the meanings of the different traditional dress change when you are in different spaces or locations?

Mandana: No, not in my opinion.

Zahra: Do you think that some traditional dress is more authentic than others? Why?

Mandana: Sometimes, yes. It happens because of the type of fabric, not necessarily indicating more authenticity. However, due to differences in price and the use of more luxurious fabrics, it may give a sense of being more authentic. Also, the way they are worn matters. Some people present a cleaner, neater appearance, making it apparent that they are more knowledgeable about how to choose and wear these clothes.

Zahra: Does where you get it from make it more authentic?

Mandana: No.

Zahra: Do different materials or who makes it make it more authentic?

Mandana: Yes, the type of fabric may influence authenticity. I’m not sure what you mean by authenticity. Different fabrics can make the dress more beautiful, and having a skilled tailor who embroiders it in a way that complements your body shape is essential. The skill of the tailor is crucial.

Zahra: Is it more authentic if you wear it in different spaces?

Mandana: Definitely, especially in ceremonies specifically for Qashqai people. If you wear these clothes in a setting where no one else is wearing them, it might not stand out or be understood. But in Qashqai ceremonies, it definitely enhances the authenticity.

Zahra: Do you not wear any parts of the “traditional” styles for any reason?

Mandana: No.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings or attitudes toward traditional dress?

Mandana: Well, when it comes to formal ceremonies like weddings, it’s not just one or two events; it’s quite frequent. You have a couple of chests in storage, and you eagerly bring out the clothes, choosing this color to match with that, coordinating scarves with dresses. The whole process of putting them together, the ambiance, wearing them, that distinctive scent of mothballs that mothers always put in the middle of the clothes, I mean… it’s a very cherished nostalgic feeling. For me, I’ve always preferred to be invited to weddings where we wear local or Turkish dresses rather than those where we don’t wear any traditional attire. I really love it.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings when wearing traditional dress? For example, while making handicrafts?

Mandana: It’s a very pleasant feeling, and preparing Turkish clothes can be quite troublesome. I mean, under the skirt, under the dress, there are some delicate details, and if you really don’t enjoy it or don’t have the enthusiasm for it, it’s quite challenging to put these clothes on. But it’s a sweet feeling. It all reminds you of childhood, being in these gatherings, your grandmother wearing them, now, it’s all nostalgic and very beautiful.

Zahra: Do any of your other identities influence how you feel about your traditional dress?

Mandana: Religion, no. Gender, no. But body size and shape, yes. When you’re in good shape, these clothes look much better on you. I experienced this recently; I wasn’t feeling great because I had gained weight, but it never stopped me from wearing those clothes. I think they look beautiful in all sizes.

Zahra: What information have you learned about traditional dress from your interactions with others (for example, did your mother teach you about the different garments)?

Mandana: No formal teaching. We were immersed in this culture from childhood, and we learned by observing. We learned how to prepare these clothes, what to wear with what, and the order in which to put them on. In society, there have been interactions where people assumed we were Lurs because our clothes resembled theirs. Explaining the differences has sometimes been challenging, but generally, people may not understand these distinctions unless they are Lurs or Qashqai themselves. However, no one specifically sat down to teach us.

Zahra: What types of messages do you think society promotes about traditional dress? How do you relate to those messages?

Mandana: Very few. I rarely saw banners promoting specific ethnic clothes. The focus was more on showcasing men in these clothes because our society is more Islamic, emphasizing men wearing traditional clothes. However, I haven’t seen active promotion of a particular type of traditional dress.

Zahra: I guess you don’t relate to those messages because there hasn’t been much to promote. Is that correct?

Mandana: Yes.

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

Mandana: The most significant obstacle can be the cost because these clothes are relatively expensive. They are not affordable, and the expense might be a deterrent. Some might rent these clothes for specific events and return them afterward. But for me, it hasn’t been a significant obstacle.

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?


Zahra: Is there anything else that would be important to share about you, Qashqai identity, and traditional dress?

Mandana: Nothing specific comes to mind. I don’t have many photos, but I’ll send you the few I have.


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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.