Kholakbafi: linked to Lake Hamoun

When Hamoun was full of water, kholakbafi (weaving of straw for mats) had an inseparable connection with that lake. The people around Hamoun benefited from the abundance of water in the lake for as long as they can remember. One of the things they did with great interest and thrived in, was kholakbafi.  In weaving this handloom both men and women were involved.

The age of kholakbafi in Sistan/Baluchistan is longer than remembered in history. As long as Hamoun existed, so did the weaving industry. Kholak is a mat woven from short and long Hamoun reeds, and its product, a shade for windows and entrances of houses built around Mount Khajeh (Kouh Khajeh) and Zabul city. They weave canopies out of the leaves for protection from the sun’s harsh rays.

It is needed to stress on this point that kholakbafi is tied to the people of that region and is an original art of that area. When Hamoun dried up, the weaving industry also fell from its usual and historical prosperity until, with a litter water, the wetland came to life again. The people of that area of our land resumed their hand-weaving industry. They grow kholakbafi in the lake and after harvesting it,  they use weaving machines to weave it. This device is made of a wooden frame with four blades and carved stone balls, which are used as spindle, and a pile of cotton thread wrapped around the stone balls (spindle). What is obtained from this work, as we said, are the mats that are placed on the windows and entrances of the houses.

Even though the material used to weave is simple and available, weaving requires art and skill that the men and women of that area have. They use their creativeness to make beautiful and unique kholak, to decorate their homes with them and give their lives freshness and color.

The natives around Hamoun Lake call the straws used for weaving tut or tutak. The leaves of this reed have another use and can be fed to cows. Thin and long stalks of tutak are also used for weaving. Using their creativity, the people around Hamoun also build boats from the stems of kholakbafi.  Since the stems of these reeds have a spongy quality, boats can be built from them.  hus, we can understand what an important role kholakbafi plays in the lives of the people around Hamoun. Alas, the current droughts and scarce water habitat in Hamon have prevented kholakbafi from production and have caused devastating damage to people’s lives. Due to the same droughts, they have been left without benefits from one of the industries that used to generate income for them. These hardworking people are now forced to obtain the material (the straw and leaves) from the northern provinces, such as Golestan and Mazandaran, which comes out expensive. Even though they do not make much profit from this craft and the cost of kholakbafi does not bring any income, they have no choice but to continue the work of their ancestors so that kholakbafi, one of the necessities of their life, will not be forgotten. Due to these facts, Sistan’s kholakbafi is considered as a craft on the narrow brink of survival.

Kholakbafi was an art 5,000 years ago in the “burnt city” (Shahre Sukhteh). Archeological evidence confirms its history. The Sistani people call this handmade industry kholk, and the Baluchistan people call it “tegrd.” However, these two (kholak or tegard) have little difference. During the abundance of water in Lake Hamoun, the woven mats were exported to Persian Gulf countries, which brought income for the people. At that time, each kholakbafi employed close to 100 workers; now, the number has declined to about 15 workers, due to drought of Hamon Lake (report by Parisa Azimi in Iran newspaper). If enough kholak is woven, it brings an income of several million tomans to its weavers. But, drought has done harm to this industry.

kholakbafi is the masterful art of the Hamoun people. With the flooding of the lake, this beautiful and life-giving industry will flourish again, and as a result the people’s lives will flourish.

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May 17, 2024