SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

The Migration

To survive on their marginal mountain land, the Bakhtiari migrate twice a year between the warm winter pastures (garmsir) in Khuzistan and the cooler summer pastures (sardsir) in Chahar Mahal. I took part in the east-west spring migration. This is less dusty than in the autumn, but may be snowier: each family has to decide when the highest passes are open – but not leave it so late that other families and flocks have exhausted the limited amount of new grass.

The first detailed record of the migration is the 1926 film ‘Grass’. This will be shown at SOAS during the exhibition (5 December 2008), with a commentary / Q&A session by Dr Kamran Rastegar.

As has always happened on migration,early every morning, there is a rapid and nigh-on biblical separation of the sheep from the goats. Then the shepherds and dogs set off, leading the flocks high up in the hills to seek out the available grass.

The women, old men and children load up all the family’s belongings, including any chickens and the smallest puppies, onto donkeys to follow easier routes. Everyone meets up again for tea and yesterday’s bread at around midday. In the evening, the women bake that day’s bread and the whole group sleeps together in the open, with the animals close around.

Not all of the Faridgi always walk the migration. The year I walked, Akram – the youngest of the Faridgi girls – really only came along to keep me company:

Those of the Faridgi who are walking usually meet three other families along the way. Here are some more of the all-important introductions: