This object was gifted to Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli by her paternal grandaunt Salimah Abdul Aziz El Mutwalli, matriarch of the El Mutwalli family.
Born in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad in 1895, Ms Salimah never married. She resolved to run the Mutwalli family household, as custom dictated. She is a part of her elder brother, Nuri Abdul Aziz El Mutwalli’s home who in turn was the patriarch of the El Mutwalli clan and caretaker of The Sunni Shrine of Abu Hanifah Al Nu’man, (hence the name; Mutwalli: caretaker).
Although not formally educated, she could read the whole Quran as she most possibly memorised by heart. A socialite in her time, renowned for her delicious cooking, Ms. Salimah was famous for her afternoon tea receptions or salons known as “qabul” or “Istiqbal” – a monthly women’s gathering where they would gather and exchange news while sipping tea, and sampling traditional Iraqi delicacies such as stuffed vines and vegetables “dolmah”, sweet pastry dumplings “klaycha” and savory bread “khubz ‘Uruq”.
She passed away in 1993 and was interred in the shrine of Imam Abu Hanifa al-Nu’man.
This is a square-shaped head cover or Scarf (Boyama) made of (Block_printed) or (Resist_dyed_print) cotton (Gauze).
The field of the Scarf is primarily plain black except for a thick ivory panel spanning the perimeter of the fabric like a border with printed embellishment. The panel features a central line flanked by floral blooms possibly daffodils, and foliage in (Crimson) red and olive green with a black outline possibly printed using Block_printing method.
The hem of the Scarf is picoted with a vibrant green silk thread with traditional Turkish style Crocheted needle lace (Oya) trimming featuring a double heart-shaped pattern in ivory and Crimson red. The bottom left of the Boyama possibly features the maker’s signature or stamp.
The piece is similar to the traditional Turkish scarves (Yazma) collected from Türkiye also in the collection (ZI2021.500875.3 ASIA, ZI2021.500875.3a ASIA, ZI2021.500875.3b ASIA, ZI2021.500875.3c ASIA, ZI2021.500875.3d ASIA, and ZI2021.500875.3e ASIA).
In certain parts of Türkiye, similar panels of fabrics can be referred to as (madil_Yazma_mahrama) or (Yazma_yemeni). However, these fabrics are more akin to kerchiefs than scarves and are typically rectangular in shape. The various names or terms for these fabrics reflect the cross-cultural exchanges between the Arab world and the Ottoman regions. The origin of the term Yazma_yemeni is uncertain, but some sources suggest that the earliest kerchiefs were possibly made of Block_printed fabrics imported from Yemen. As printing facilities were later established within the empire, the term was generalized for any printed fabric.
Over time, the use of the terms Yazma_yemeni or Mandil_Yazma_mahrama declined as scarves adorned with painted or printed patterns and Oya trimmings became popular. These were simply, called Yazma, retained a square shape instead of being rectangular, and were primarily used as headgear.
It is worth noting that traditionally Yazma were either printed or painted. The term for the art of dyeing or colouring (Boyama) was often used to refer to scarves or Yazma with printed or painted patterns in the Arab regions under the Ottoman reign. As an integral part of Turkish culture, the use of these scarves transcended geographical bounds and had entered the Arab world especially the Levant and the Fertile Crescent region where it was adopted as a part of their lexicon for printed bandanas.
Oya is a Turkish term used to describe narrow lace trimmings, otherwise known as “Turkish lace”, in the west, are produced and worn in various regions of the Mediterranean, particularly in Türkiye. It is commonly used to adorn clothing, household textiles, and jewellery.
The art of Oya entails various forms and motifs, each bearing different names based on the techniques employed. There are four main types of Oya: needle-made Oya, Crochet Oya, tatting Oya, and hairpin Oya. While Crochet, tatting, and hairpin lace are considered flat Oya, needle-made lace typically has a three-dimensional quality.
Traditionally Oya designs draw inspiration from nature, featuring motifs such as local, flora, and fauna. Women adorned their headdresses, scarves, and other garments with Oya, conveying emotions, expectations, and sentiments to those around them.
Different regions and age groups were associated with specific floral motifs, creating a non-verbal means of expression especially significant in various societal contexts, including engagement and wedding ceremonies, where the choice of Oya held symbolic meaning. Additionally, Oya motifs were named after prominent figures and events, reflecting societal influences.
The origin of Oya is debated. While some think that its origin dates as far back as c. 8th-century B.C.E with the Phrygians of Anatolia others believe that needle-made Oya, in particular, may have originated from Italian embroidered laces, such as Venetian needlepoint lace that travelled to Ottoman Turkey through Istanbul’s close social and commercial ties with Venice from the 1500s onwards.
Whatever its beginnings may be, its long history in Türkiye since the Ottoman times leaves no doubt of its distinctive Turkish identity.
Although the origin of Oya itself is debatable, the modern flat styles of Oya have different traceable influences. It is quite likely that these styles of Oya originated in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries and quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean regions, including Ottoman Turkey, in the latter half of the 19th century.
Historians believe this transmission may have occurred through European pattern books, handwork magazines, and publications. Local artisans then adopted and further developed these designs and techniques, resulting in a diverse range of Oya styles.
Although machine-made Oya is now available, handmade Oya remains more popular due to its perceived liveliness. Traditionally, silk and cotton yarns were used to create Oya. However, synthetic yarns have become common today.
Oya is still a popular tradition in Türkiye. Deeply rooted in Anatolian culture, traditional Oya makers often keep an archive of loose Oya pieces, for reference. Oya trimmings today are not only limited to adorning women’s headscarves but are also used for embellishing other modern accessories, as they continue to be cherished and preserved as part of a girl’s trousseau chest.
Interestingly, as mentioned above, the use of these scarves transcended geographical bounds and entered the Arab world through Ottoman rule where the term (Mandil_Oya) or (Mandil_b_Oya) was adopted in Egypt for example as a part of their lexicon for bandanas trimmed in Oya technique.
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