About-the-project-interweavings

 

This website is an outcome of Sohar University’s Interweavings project. The project aimed to promote cultural understanding of regional cultures within Oman whilst also developing relations between Oman and the wider world. The project’s team believed that through showing the traditions of one country on the Arabian Peninsula, tolerance and appreciation of Arabic culture in general could be promoted. We set out to document regional Omani folk arts, but with a specific focus. Our initial research indicated a general lack of understanding of and dearth of academic publications about Omani women’s culture(s). As such we chose to focus on documenting women’s traditions, specifically their clothing (the various styles, methods of production, beliefs about and wearing practices) and their verbal arts (i.e. folktales, sayings and songs). This project is of particular importance now as the material and verbal traditions of Oman are changing due to rapid modernisation.
In April 2010 a team of four researchers Ahmed Al-Saidi, Ahmed Al Rawi, Erin Roche and Thomas Roche began planning to survey Omani women’s culture region by region visiting: Al Batinah (Sohar, Saham, Liwa, Suwaiq, Shinas, Khabourah, Barka), A’Dhakhiliah (Nizwa, Bahla, Adam), A’Dahriyah (Ibri, Al Burami), A’Sharqiyah (Ibra, Al Mudaby, Bidiyah, Asila, Sinaw), Musandam (Khasab, Kamzar, Dabba), Dhofar (Salalah,Thumrayd, Sadah, Mashaylah, Mazoona), Al Wusta (Dukum) and the Capital region (Muscat, Al Seeb, Barka). This website consists of photos of and tales told by Omani women between September 2010 and March 2011 at the above-mentioned sites.
Semi-structured qualitative panel interviews based on flexible generalised questions were used with groups of 5-6 participants per site (with some diversity in terms of age) to encourage talk with each other and the interviewer (through student translators) about folktales and the telling of tales. As the focus of the project dealt with women’s culture it was important, for reasons of cultural sensitivity, to use only female data collectors in the field. Utilising the existing social and kin networks of the students’ Erin Roche visited each of the villages and towns above, travelling over 20,000 kilometres throughout the Sultanate to collect tales. Interviews were recorded with electronic Dictaphones and verbatim transcripts were then produced from which translations were made into English. As such the project has also functioned as an employment and training opportunity for student translators.
We hope the verbal and material arts presented here provide you with a window on the cultural and imaginative life of the people in Oman as well as some insight into their popular beliefs and dress practices. While some of the clothes, stories and sayings have equivalents throughout neighbouring states in the Middle East we hope to have captured some of the flavour of women’s life in Oman today.
All photos were taken with explicit consent for their publication.  At the request of some of the women involved their faces in the photos have been obscured by shading in order to protect their privacy.


Thomas Roche
Project Manager