Negar Khosravi English Transcript

Interviewee: Negar Khosravi

Interview date: September 21st, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 48 min 50 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Negar: I am thirty-nine years old.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Negar: Shiraz, Iran.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Negar: Yes, since childhood. I’ve been to Tehran a few times for work, but I never could choose any other city for living except Shiraz, so I came back.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Negar: I am a co-pilot for a passenger airline company.

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

Negar: I have a bachelor’s degree in English translation from Isfahan University, Sheikh Bahai.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Negar: Female.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Negar: Yes, I am married.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Negar: Not yet.

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

Negar: We belong to the Qashqai tribe, specifically the Keshtkouli Tiri Ghashtasb. Qashqais are considered a large community, often practicing family marriages, and they are quite extensive. Due to their traditions, family relations, especially within the same tribe, are significant. Therefore, our second-degree relatives include a considerable number of people. In Qashqai tribes, the relationships are not as distant as the term implies. For example, an aunt, uncle, father’s sister, or mother’s sister are considered close relatives because there is a lot of interaction. In essence, relatives in our tribe encompass a broader circle.

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

Negar: Very well, and almost quite extensively.

Zahra: Where do they live?

Negar: Some are outside of Iran, even first-degree relatives are abroad, and some are inside Iran.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Negar: No.

Zahra: What is the current household income level?

Negar: Me and my husband have an average to good income, almost good.

Zahra: Do you have religious affiliation?

Negar: I am Shia.

Zahra: Do you believe in it and accept it?

Negar: I still believe and accept it, but much less than in previous years.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Negar: For me, it means authenticity.

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

Negar: Being the first female pilot of Qashqai origin, all the members of my tribe and the Qashqai community show great kindness to me. They bold this fact in various gatherings, especially in large Qashqai events or gatherings. So, being Qashqai becomes more pronounced for me during these times, and I feel a stronger sense of Qashqai identity.

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

Negar: Yes, there have been overwhelmingly positive feelings so far. My positive feelings are often heightened when I witness the sacrifices made by Qashqais for defending our country’s borders. You, having chosen Qashqai attire, are probably familiar with Qashqai history. During the Iran-UK war, Qashqais made significant sacrifices to safeguard Iran’s borders. Whenever I hear about these heroic acts, my positive feelings about being Qashqai intensify.

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

Negar: Well, one of the things that has engaged us in being Qashqai is that, as I mentioned to you, many of the connections are familial, and whether you like it or not, a Qashqai individual is involved in family connections. This has become less common these days, but it used to be prevalent in the generations before ours. If I want to talk about a generation before mine, they were all connected through family ties, but it’s not the case for our generation. However, the older generations were more involved in societal matters within the Qashqai community because of their family ties. My most significant involvement with the Qashqai community, apart from my immediate family circle, is in the larger gatherings and events that I participate in. Especially because my father was among the educators for the Iranian nomads, participating in events related to educating Iranian nomads. Well, we were very engaged with the Qashqai community, especially during the time when my father was actively involved in such events. I was quite involved in the Qashqai society because of the prominent figures like Mr. Bahman Beygi, who was the founder of the nomadic education system in Iran. Large families and other prominent figures. In this way, I became quite engaged in Qashqai communities, except for my own family circles.

Zahra: What traditional clothes and jewelry do you wear?

Negar: Qashqai clothing consists of a shirt, a pleated skirt, leggings, and a headband called “yaghloogh.” We also wear a small hat, known as “Kolahche,” underneath our scarves to keep them in place. Now, the pleated skirt is distinctive, as it has a princess-like puffiness achieved by multiple layers of puffy fabric underneath. The fabric chosen for these layers is typically a padded material to create the desired puffiness, defining the overall character of the Qashqai dress. As for jewelry, a pin like a breastpin is used to attach the Yaghloogh to the leggings. Necklaces are also worn, and although I may not know their specific names, they are substantial, featuring large pendants to showcase the intricate embroidery and beadwork on the leggings. Besides these, I am not aware of any specific jewelry; I do know about the pin used to secure the Yaghloogh and the one connecting it to the leggings, which is crucial for the overall look. Apart from that, I don’t know of any other specific accessories. There might have been other traditional or ancient jewelry, but I’m not aware of them.

Zahra: What is the fabric of the clothes?

Negar: The fabric of the clothes is very different. In fact, the clothing of the Qashqai community encompasses fashion, design, and style. For example, in the forties and fifties, the fabric of these clothes was entirely different from what we have in the nineties. Now, after ten years have passed, I myself notice this difference. Perhaps the availability of the fabric determines the design. I’m not sure, but depending on the type of ceremony for which the dress is intended, they use different fabric types. For example, for an important wedding, guests prefer dresses with vibrant colors, and they tend to use fabrics that, in common terms, are called “Zari Doozi” because it gives a festive touch to the dress. On the other hand, for a mourning ceremony, when someone wants to wear Qashqai clothing, they undoubtedly choose a different fabric. It goes towards a fabric that, if it’s summer, is cool for the mourner. I’ve seen this a lot. They pay attention when selecting fabric for a mourning ceremony, saying, “Get something cool for it.” The ceremonial and festive aspects of the fabric take a back seat, and it aligns more with the availability of that fabric in the market. I remember at one time, Indian fabrics were in fashion because of the embroidery they had. The entry of Indian fabrics into Iran decreased, and it fell out of fashion. Fashion changed, and, of course, I must say that economic conditions can also play a role. With the current inflation in society, purchasing power for fabric, and in general, obtaining a beautiful dress, has become more expensive.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Negar: Mostly bright and vibrant colors.

Zahra: What kind of jewelry do you wear?

Negar: Jewelry with stones, and if it has stones, the color of the stone matches the color of the dress. For instance, the jewelry I used for my wedding had green stones because my dress was green.

Zahra: Where do you buy these clothes or jewelry?

Negar: For traditional jewelry, there are many gold markets, specifically selling handcrafted gold items, available in the market. We have a unique gold shop in Shiraz called “Ghazaleh Gold Shop,” which specializes in creating exclusive gold items for Qashqai clothes. Personally, if I want to choose, I always visit that shop. However, if I want to buy heavy gold items, like the large necklaces I mentioned, I have to go to the southern regions, where they have a wider variety of these gold items.

Zahra: Do you make them yourself?

Negar: Personally, no. However, Qashqais themselves make their own jewelry and clothes. My friend, who is a Qashqai dress designer, is working on registering the Qashqai dress internationally and pays attention even to the fabric of the dress. She orders fabric from Kashan, ensuring that it does not contain any Indian fabric, as we want the Qashqai dress to be authentic and not to be influenced by Indian fabrics.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Negar: Since I’m not an artist, yes.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Negar: Yes, my mother gave me a special pin for my Yaghloogh, and I always proudly use it.

Zahra: Do you purchase them from a store?

Negar: Well, someone who designs it surely showcases it for us in a store, but not in a very formal or an informal store. It can also be obtained through our own orders. If a store doesn’t have it, they can arrange it at their home.

Zahra: After the previous interview, someone told me that they often acquire from the Vakil Bazaar, be it clothes or jewelry.

Negar: Look, it’s possible to obtain from there, but the quality of the fabric acquired from Vakil Bazaar is obtained from there. The fabric itself, yes, you have to get it from a store. Vakil Bazaar has it, but we have other fabric stores that bring fabrics, for example, for non-traditional formal dresses. When a dress designer with an artistic perspective pays attention to those fabrics, they can bring their desired dress design from those. I haven’t acquired fabric for dresses from Vakil Bazaar so far, but yes, it’s possible.

Zahra: Where do you get your dress fabric?

Negar: I have a fabric store at Cinema Saadi, which brings fabrics for non-traditional formal dresses. They are quite high-quality, and I get them from there. Or, for example, a friend who used to be a dress designer would procure them for me. They would add a unique touch to the fabric with their artistic work, providing me with an artistic presentation. The fabric itself is very ordinary and affordable, and you can get it from anywhere, but they put a lot of handcrafted work on it, elevating the fabric from ordinary to extraordinary.

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

Negar: Well, first of all, the seller is fully familiar with Qashqai clothing and can guide me effectively. Since I’m not a tailor and don’t have much knowledge about tailoring, they guide me themselves. Moreover, their fabrics are of high quality, not the type that gets worn out easily with regular use. I choose to get fabrics from them because I have been satisfied with everything I have obtained from them so far.

Zahra: What does traditional clothing mean to you?

Negar: It is an honor for me, a symbol of authenticity, and a preservation of valuable artistic work. Recently, I have noticed significant changes in traditional Qashqai clothing due to modern fashion trends. It bothers me that people unconsciously modify these traditional garments for the sake of aesthetics. I question why we should alter our traditional clothing just to look more beautiful. While some may find the modernized version more attractive, I prefer the original Qashqai clothing, maintaining the same essence and modesty in dress. I believe in preserving valuable artistic works, such as traditional crafts like Khatam (marquetry) and Monabbat (carving).

Zahra: Have these meanings changed over the course of your life?

Negar: Its honor and authenticity haven’t changed. Since my youth, when I used to wear it, I loved it. Even from childhood, when I had a special dress that set me apart from others, for example, when they said, “Wear a special dress and come,” I had it ready. At that time, it actually set me apart from others, and it was like earning a point for me. From childhood, when I wore this dress, I liked it. Maybe there was a brief period, like during the teenage years from 13 to 18, when I thought, “Why should I wear such a difficult dress?” But after that, it didn’t stay in my mind for long. Shortly after, I would think, “Well, it’s beautiful, and I’ve always liked this dress.

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

Negar: I don’t think so; I cannot provide a specific example, but, in my opinion, it has always been a source of pride.

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

Negar: Absolutely. Before we even get to this question, let me give you an example. Imagine seeing a poorly sewn Qashqai dress, with low-quality fabric and a lot of distortion. For instance, if you see someone wearing a Qashqai dress with short sleeves, we, as Qashqai people, would never do that. I consider it a completely non-authentic and unoriginal dress. Yes, it’s not just about the cost; it’s about the love and passion that the dressmaker puts into it. For example, when you want to wear a Qashqai dress, you search for a tailor with taste, a tailor who puts love into their work. It’s not about the cost; it’s about the authenticity that the dressmaker gives to the dress. Unfortunately, we see some distortions in these dresses that upset people. They try to modernize it, mix in contemporary fashion, and make it more modern, but Qashqai dresses are beautiful with their simplicity and authenticity. This is my opinion; sometimes they change the hairdo style in a way that I don’t like at all. I keep saying, “I hope Qashqai dresses don’t go in this direction, and they don’t forget their essence.” Yes, you can definitely tell if a dress is authentic or not by looking at it for even a few seconds, although there are differences among the Qashqai tribes in terms of dress style and hairdressing style.

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

Negar: Yes, I believe so.

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

Negar: Look, it does have an impact on its beauty, but if the overall style and the original form of the dress are preserved, in my opinion, its authenticity is maintained. The points I mentioned to you, and the fact that a specific tailor has sewn it and made it authentic to some extent, are important. However, it’s not about the fabric or the cost; it’s about the tailor who knows the authentic version for sewing a dress. Let me add one more point here. I forgot to mention one component of the dress you asked me about—the “Arkhālūq.” The dress has an “Arkhālūq” that is worn over the shirt, similar to a jacket, in cold seasons. This is the most beautiful fabric chosen for the Arkhālūq. Now, what I said is because the Arkhālūq is like a jacket with long sleeves, and the tailor needs to know how to sew it in the old style, using the traditional method, to bring that old authenticity to the dress. This is the only case where I can tell you that, yes, the authenticity of the dress can be ensured when it comes to sewing the Arkhālūq.

Zahra: If you wear the clothing in different spaces, does it make it more authentic?

Negar: In my opinion, this can happen. Personally, I have never done this, but you think about situations like the World Cup where both women and men from the Qashqai tribe have participated wearing Qashqai dresses. Well, in a place that is international, wearing this dress can elevate its status significantly. For example, Qashqai women who graduate abroad, on their graduation day when they wear this dress, it’s like winning a trophy. Unfortunately, Mrs. Azhdari, who tragically lost her life in the airplane incident, was wearing Qashqai dress in her university in Canada. When you wear this dress in an international community where no one is familiar with it, you bring attention to it, making it bold, and elevate its authenticity. In my opinion, yes, it’s possible for the authenticity of the dress to change with the atmosphere.

Zahra: Is there a part of traditional styles, for any reason, that you do not wear?

Negar: I wear the complete outfit. Even if it includes a winter shawl (Arkhalooq) in cold seasons, I wear it with pride.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings or attitude toward traditional clothing?

Negar: Like an ancient, steadfast mountain.

Zahra: How do you describe your feelings when wearing traditional clothing? For example, during the creation of handicrafts?

Negar: I take great pride in it and feel a good kind of pride. I confess that as I age, this pride intensifies.

Zahra: Or, for instance, if you have—or you said you don’t do this—crafted a necklace or jewelry, how do you feel during the creation of handicrafts? Have you ever done it? If you want to share your feelings.

Negar: Unfortunately, I’m not an artist myself, but I’m sure artists, when sewing or creating jewelry, do it with enthusiasm because that’s the nature of art. An artist’s nature is to pour their love into the artistic work they create. However, I’m not one to craft such items.

Zahra: Does any of your other identities affect your feelings about your traditional clothing?

Negar: Look, certainly, like any other dress in the world, when you have a fit body, you enjoy wearing Qashqai dress. Definitely, well, extra weight can affect one’s feeling about wearing any type of clothing, not exclusively about Qashqai dress, but certainly, it has an impact. Although, in my opinion, in Qashqai dresses, you can cover the shortcomings of a body because its main feature is its covering property. Perhaps its impact is much less compared to other dresses. Now, if we consider its negative aspect, but like always, if you wear another dress and make it chic, the better your body fits it, it certainly has a better effect on your mood and feeling. I, for a short period, suddenly gained a lot of weight, for example, you can imagine that within a year, I gained around eight kilos or so. Now, it’s interesting that my preference became to wear Qashqai dress in social gatherings during this time when I had this weight, because, as I mentioned to you, it covers more and maybe now it can give a more positive feeling.

Zahra: What information have you gained about traditional clothing from your interactions with others? (For example, has your mother taught you about different types of clothing?)

Negar: You see, we grew up with these from childhood. I don’t remember my mother – she’s not at my age anymore, but my older sister remembers that our mom used to walk around the town in these clothes. It’s very interesting that one of the biggest complaints I have about my mom is why did you leave Qashqai dress on the streets? And why did you wear another dress? I mean, you didn’t choose Qashqai dress as the main dress on the street, in alleys, in the market, in the doctor’s office, in the university, everywhere. If you had done this, if you had preserved your traditional dress, you would never be forced into a forced covering. This is one of my biggest complaints about my mom, and well, surely, we grew up with this clothing from childhood. Although, I’ll take the opportunity here to say something that my mom has a very convincing answer to this issue. When I complained to her, she convincingly persuaded me. Well, maybe it becomes a bit political, so I can’t answer it like this. She convinced me. You know, social conditions have caused them to abandon traditional clothing. Now, we wear this dress only in wedding ceremonies and our personal ceremonies. But since my childhood, I’ve seen that in every wedding we attended, the dress was traditional. My sister has seen that my mom used to walk around the society wearing traditional dress. Even my grandmother, until the last day of her life, always had traditional dress and walked around the city with this dress. I mean, this dress is not something we are taught; it’s in our background.

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

Negar: You see, the Qashqai community has been promoting itself for several years. I even hope that the Qashqai community reaches a point where this dress is again used in public spaces and as daily clothing, and I hope this happens. For several years, Qashqai ladies have been promoting this, but they don’t have the permission to promote this through banners in a society that is not under the control of the Qashqai people. Everyone has their own personal Instagram pages, and I’ve seen public Instagram pages using this, promoting this through banners, or using Qashqai dress in video clips for Qashqai songs. But it’s not something very common at the level of an Iranian society. However, I hope that eventually this issue returns to the previous trend, and I hope that everyone can freely wear this dress again in the city.

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

Negar: One, the unfamiliarity of this dress, in my opinion, in public gatherings, for example, it’s like wearing a very vibrant, special, and distinct dress. Even though everyone is familiar with it, imagine wearing it and going out; it draws a lot of attention. Not that I wouldn’t like to choose this dress as my formal attire because, well, whatever it is, no matter how difficult it is to wear, it’s not something imposed on me. No one can impose their dressing style on me. A dress that has been there, and it’s clear how it is, without any alterations or distortions. Despite my desire to choose this dress as my formal attire, I still can’t come to terms with myself because it attracts a lot of attention. Second, with our hectic lives and daily routines, it’s not compatible. Well, it’s a bit challenging to wear it. Third, it’s an expensive dress, and you can’t easily replace 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)

Nagar: These pictures are from the day of my engagement ceremony, and we are currently taking photos for our engagement album. However, the setting was relatively public, and anyone could attend in any attire. I chose to be present in traditional Qashqai clothing, and I had my photos taken in that garden, which was considered a somewhat public space. Due to a tradition among the Qashqai people, individuals wear their traditional clothing on their wedding day. As I was one of the parties involved and possessed this attire, it was essential for me to wear it on that significant day. The most significant meaning for me was the sense of pride, honor, and dignity associated with it. I considered it my duty as a Qashqai to uphold our traditions and wear this attire on that important day, which, in a way, may be seen as a religious gesture. Regardless, I personally felt obligated to don this attire on that day.

Zahra: Is there anything else about you, your Qashqai identity, and traditional clothing that you would like to share?

Negar: I don’t know how this clothing can become a stable outfit; it needs to be resolved inside Iran. I don’t know, but this clothing has the question we discussed earlier, talking about it; it’s a kind of religious duty for us with the identity being Qashqai, with all the things being Qashqai gives us. Perhaps, by preserving, first of all, the Qashqai language and passing it on to future generations, and then also preserving this clothing, we can fulfill our religious obligation by wearing it on special occasions. The biggest problem, as I said, is the language. We have a lot of bias in that matter. After that, perhaps the clothing; because my sister-in-law is not Turkish, but their children speak Turkish because the language is crucial. It’s interesting that in our ceremonies, they also wear Qashqai clothes, and they are very eager to maintain this tradition so that this tradition is preserved. I don’t know what solution there is for this, if you talked to other friends, see if they have a solution for this issue. Thank you, and it’s an honor for me. Thank you for addressing our clothing in an international context.


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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.