The Bakhtiari: More Than Just Nomads

Key information

About this event

The Bakhtiari: More Than Just Nomads
Photographic Exhibitions by Caroline Mawer
16 October – 13 December 2008

The Bakhtiari are one of the largest of all the Iranian nomadic tribes. They were especially politically important during the Constitutional Revolution – successfully invading Tehran in 1909. Just before that, in 1908, the first find of Middle East oil was in their tribal areas.

This exhibition brings together rarely seen early images exploring:

We have been especially lucky in getting access to some of the personal image collections of the Bakhtiari Khans, as well as the British Petroleum archives.

During the exhibition there are two free film screenings - of the two classic films of the Bakhtiari migration.

A People's Migration: The Bakhtiari Kuch

A People’s Migration is a contemporary photographic essay of an Iranian nomad family, migrating on foot over 3000m mountains in South West Iran.

Traditionally, twice a year, the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe spend weeks trekking kuch (their traditional migration) with their flocks and families from their winter to their summer pastures. This ancient way of life is now vanishing fast. More and more Bakhtiari are leaving the mountains altogether; whilst those who do remain use trucks or tractors to transport their animals and the family belongings. A People’s Migration is a stunning visual journey documenting a way of life which will soon vanish forever.

Films of the Bakhtiari migration

The Oscar-nominated 1976 film, People of the Wind , with James Mason’s narration, will be shown at the KLT, SOAS on 29 October 2008. Mike Dodds, one of the original camera crew, will be attending for a Q&A session.

The 1926 silent film of the Bakhtiari migration, Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life will be shown at the KLT, SOAS on 5 December 2008. Dr Kamran Rastegar, from the University of Edinburgh, will be attending to discuss the Orientalist content of the film.

All are welcome to attend – the screenings are free!

Caroline Mawer

Caroline Mawer is a Persian-speaking (though British) photographer and adventurer, who lived and then walked with one extended family, the Faridgi. She had unprecedented access to the unique way of life of this very traditional tribe, and has captured some deeply personal and candid images of daily life. To complement the contemporary images, she curated the historical images and wrote the text for this site.

All of the images pose a strong challenge to the current media stereotypes of Iran and document a vibrant rural people getting on with their daily life, whilst exploring how a nomad tribe can be influential in the development of a modern nation.

You can find out more about Caroline's work at her website .


Many people have helped, in many ways, to make this internet site possible. I would like to thank them all – including those who decided not to have their names included here. All errors are, of course, my own.

First and most importantly, for making my time with the Bakhtiari possible:
  • The Faridgi family
  • Dr Kamran Afshar
Special thanks, for a contribution to exhibition funding, go to:
  • The Iran Society
  • The Bakhtiar family
For sourcing, donating and giving permission to use images:
  • All the contributors to
  • All the members of Bakhtiari World
  • The Bakhtiar family
  • British Petroleum archive team
  • Christina Lorimer
  • Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian
  • The John Murray archive, National Library of Scotland
  • The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago Cyrus Alai
  • Golnar Bakhtiar
  • Lily Sardarian and Bahman Oskui
  • The Tain Museum, Scotland
  • The School of Oriental & African Studies Library, and especially Miss Yasumura
For help with exhibition / internet planning and design:
  • Bespoke Imaging
  • John Hollingsworth, Brunei Gallery
  • Joy Onyejiako, Brunei Gallery
  • Jennifer and Patrick Mawer
  • Martina Anziger
  • Duncan Franklin
  • Kevin Miller
For contributions to the commentaries:
  • Agnes Poitevin Navarre
  • Professor Gene Garthwaite
  • Professor Lois Beck
  • Dr Nicholas Tromans
  • Christina Lorimer
  • Dr Kamran Rastega
  • Nezam Bagherzade