Charlottesville's Indiana Jones|
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A nomad may use a kilim to cover a floor or divide a room - or for wrapping goods, or bodies - and the patterns
on rugs likewise serve more purpose than decoration. "A rug is an expression of feeling - hopes, fears, ideals.
It's artistic expression. And, on some level, there's probably a lot of religious and mythological symbolism involved."
So these helicopter designs, these stylized grenades - these could conceivably occur in the patterns of dowry pieces,
or religious items?
"Oh, yeah," says Barodofsky. "I have a prayer rug with a tank on it."
A stated agenda of the Sun Bow Trading Company is to support nomadic tribes - by trading with them, and by
awakening sedentary people to their art and to their predicament. But the essence of nomadism, as Barodofsky
sees it, has been all but strangled.
"The nomads are finished everywhere; the borders are all closed. Thousands fo miles of migratiions have been
reduced to a few miles. It's finished! Gone!"
As the victory rugs might suggest, guns and political frontiers have superseded weather and beasts as nomads'
primary antagonists, and hard currency has become more alluring than, say, greener pastures for grazing sheep.
Barodofsky recalls a trip to Egypt.
"Where are they?" I asked. "Where are the nomads?"
"'Oh, they're not around anymore,' the guy said. 'They're all doing unskilled labor for Aramco in Saudi Arabia,
making $12 an hour.'
Most of the goods for sale at Sun Bow are at least decades old, and, of the few contemporary objects Barodofsky
will sell, many were produced by traditionally nomadic tribes that have been settled in villages by present-day
"Governments never have like nomads. Think of it - if you're a goverment, you're there to control and administer.
But nomads, they elude the census takers, the court-appointed religious police, the military recruiters, the taxmen...
"If they don't like someplace, nomads just pick up and leave - goverments don't like that. They take their sheep and
The merchant is moved to recite:
"And they disappeared as quietyl as nomads in the night. Struck their tents and gone..."
Let me tell you about nomads.
I'm with the Kazak nomads, north and slightly east of Kashgar, which is the spiritual center of Chinese
Turkistan - officially called Xing-han autonomous region.
So I'm hanging out with these people. They've got this yurt encampment that they've set up, and I'm asking
them about yurts and nomadic life, and the Kazaks. I'm talking with this young guy, and I ask him: "What kind of
Kazaks are you?"
I'm expecting him to say something like "Red Fox Kazaks," "Black Lamb Kazaks" - because all these tribal sub-groups have
names. But he just looke at me.
"What do you mean?"
I say, "What's your tribal name-group?"
"Kazak," he says. "We're all Kazaks here."
"I understand that," I say, "but don't y ou have a name for just your group?"
"Name for our group? No."
"All right. What did you used to call youselves?"
"Every other place I've been," I tell him, "the people have a name for their tribal-group. Understand?"
"Oh," he says, "You'd have to talk to teh old, old men about that. I'm only 22 years old; I don't know anything about
history. This is Kazak Commune No. 76. That's who we are."
"Finished!" Barodofsky exclaims again.
"These people are still 'nomads,' but the nomadic part of their lives is over. Now, they're meat-producing factories for
the Chinese. They've always herded sheep, and it's convenient for the government that way."
Bardodfsky's passion for the art and life of nomads has perhaps transformed him into a kind of global wanderer himself.
But his own artistic expression hss taken other form.
"My taste," he says, savoring the words, "is in theater.
Sun Bow is a theater project - we're setting an ambience here..."
Barodofsky gestures broadly, the sweep of his hands encompassing the room and all within it - rugs, camel decorations,
archaic inlaid rifles, sleeping mastiff, youthful assistant, audience.
We had long ago finished our tea.
Could a future be read in the leaves? What might the next 4,000 nights bring?
"Oh - we'll be gone. I'm not interested in selling made-for-sale goods, and this kind of stuff will all be unavailable. The
supply will be exhausted.
"The caravan," he declares, with the vitality of a tragedian, "the caravan will close."