Accompanied by two Middle Eastern, machine gun wielding police officers, a driver and translator, Kerryn James heads out into the desert of Pakistan. As she ventures out into territory untouched by tourists, she is confident with knowledge and ability to approach local tribes and purchase their textiles. The handmade, vintage tribal textiles are then sent to Australia, where Kerryn shares her stories and the cultural history of each item.
All of the bright and colourful pieces that Kerryn has selectively chosen are on display at her new store in Port Adelaide, Adventuress.
With a background as an archeologist, Kerryn says she is “absolutely obsessed with reading books”, which is the crux of her textile research; leading her to discover varying textiles. All of the tribal textiles have different stories and cultural backgrounds, with some items being handed down through the generations. However, these textiles are gradually disappearing as education levels are increasing and western cultures are creating a greater influence.
The image above is a traditional headpiece worn by Kalash tibal women from Northern Pakistan. The fabric is hand woven and covered by cowrie shells, embroidery, small seed beads and has a pale red woolen pom-pom at the top. The Kalash of Chitral are a group of 3,000 people who are the last remaining Dardic indigenous people from the Indo-Iranian branch and are renown for their intricate beading.
This cultural connection Kerryn experiences enables her to understand the history and ability of these talented individuals first hand. Continually conversing with local village people and becoming immersed in their rich culture, Kerryn deciphers the history and meaning behind each item she carefully selects.
Seeking handmade items, Kerryn James will stop at nothing and travel anywhere to seek textiles not many people have seen.
Kerryn’s passion for the textiles is evident through her knowledge of varying tribal groups. “I love the research and love travelling” Kerryn explained. “What I try and do is connect with the woman, because it’s often the men that take the money. I try to pay them directly as lots of women don’t get any money.” By supporting the women of the tribes Kerryn is able to bring give them money for their families. After experiencing the culture and difficulty the women have getting money for their families, Kerryn states, “I never ever barter. Whatever they want for it I’ll pay them and they jump for joy. They can’t believe I’m such an idiot that I’ll just pay them. But what ever I pay is still too cheap anyway.”
The history of each item varies immensely with the rugs pictured above, which can take any period from around 3 weeks to a month. Even with a group of women working together, depending on the detail and size involved the time frame is so lengthy-especially when village people buy them for around one Australian dollar. Where as some of the other items are from the 70’s and 80’s, which are handed down through the generations.
Searching the globe and exploring to the tops of mountains to see Indigenous tribes in India (image above) or through the deserts of Pakistan, Kerryn James has an eye for detail, which is prevalent in all of the items she has collected.
You can't miss out on the amazing culture and handmade tribal textures Kerryn James is sharing from around the globe, to us in Adelaide, South Australia. Check them out for yourself in person...
Where: 116 Lipson Street, Port Adelaide
When: Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 3pm.