The Disappearing World of Turkish Nomads:

The Use and Function of Material Culture as Expressions of Life and Heritage

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Paulus Lecture Hall, Willamette University College of Law

Ron T. Marchese will explore the textiles and various belongings of the nomads of Turkey and will explain how these objects provide us with a glimpse into a culture that is rapidly disappearing. This free lecture is offered in conjunction with the exhibition “Family Holdings: Turkish Flat Weaves from the Keith Achepohl Collection.” The lecture will take place on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Paulus Lecture Hall at the Willamette University College of Law. 

Today, a dwindling number of people still follow the ancient ways of semi-nomadic life in Turkey. In remote areas, they continue to move with the seasons as they tend their herds. In these remnants one can find the residual elements of the more ancient tent-based culture. 

Much of the culture of nomads is expressed in things —  in cloth, clothing, a variety of handicrafts; including metal work, woodcarving and especially embroidery and weaving. Symbols, motifs, color and color combinations form an integral part of non-verbal communication. They serve as potent talismans; providing families with protection from evil, ensuring good luck and security, they might define territory, or be used in courtship, birth, and various rites of passage, including death. What exists today is far different from the more ancient trappings of the past. 

Marchese says, “In the end, it is the object that captures our attention. As we look deeper into the intricacies of nomadic material culture what actually is resurrected are the people behind the embroidered mask and loom."

Over 30 years ago, both Keith Achepohl and Marchese were studying in Turkey. They quickly discovered that they were both fascinated by the nomads of Turkey and wanted to learn more. So they ventured out into remote areas to meet and talk with them. At that time Keith began collecting textiles and over the last 30 years has developed what is now considered to be one of the finest collections of Turkish flat weaves in the United States. Forty-six of these visually bold and stunning weavings are currently on display at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in the exhibition  “Family Holdings: Turkish Flat Weaves from the Keith Achepohl Collection.” The exhibition will continue till Dec. 23, 2012. 

Marchese is a professor of Ancient History and Archaeology in the Department of Humanities and Classics at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. He has conducted archaeological, historical, and ethnographic investigations in a number of locations in Greece and the Middle East over the past thirty years. He has received numerous national and university grants, including two Fulbright-Hays Senior Research awards. He is also the author and editor of numerous books and articles in various disciplines.


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