Boy's tunic

Ersari Turkmen people, early 20th century
From Afghanistan

Boys' survival is crucial for Turkmen nomads. As they grow older, the boys become responsible for the flocks of sheep that are their main source of livelihood. As men, they will also guarantee the survival of the tribe. So their mothers try to protect them from snakes, scorpions, disease and accidents with special clothes and ornaments that keep away evil influences. In particular, they try to deflect the 'evil eye', which threatens life itself.

Young boys wear a tunic or overshirt (kirlik or krte) until they are four or five. It is made of seven pieces from seven tents and sewn by three or four fortunate women. They embroider it with motifs and use colours such as red that symbolize life and fertility. The borders often have hook patterns representing scorpions for protection. The women also attach a whole range of items to the shoulders and back: bells, beads, amulets, coins, feathers, cowrie shells or white buttons, tufts of hair, black-and-white cords, models of sharp tools and weapons, tubes or roundels containing texts or prayers from the Qur'an and snakes modelled in cloth. Caps and bibs use the same elements, which are intended to frighten away evil spirits and either catch the attention of the 'evil eye' or deflect it from causing harm.

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More information


J. Kalter, The arts and crafts of Turkest (London, Thames and Hudson, 1983)

J. Harvey, Traditional textiles of centra (London, Thames and Hudson, 1996)

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, The Turcoman of Iran (Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, 1971)


Height: 50.000 cm
Width: 54.000 cm

Museum number

AOA Ethno 2003 As3.3


Purchased with the support of the British Museum Friends


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