mongolia, kaftan, deel, moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark

When museums get it wrong: Mongolian deel

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Looking through the wide catalog of ethnographic museum artefacts, you find that Moesgaard Museum has a lot under the category “Kaftan”. “Kaftan” is an Arabic word for a long robe, often worn as a coat or overdress. Looking at the garment in the picture above, it is then correct to mark this Mongolian deel as a kaftan? Yes, it has the same features as the kaftan, but the Mongolian deel is by Mongolians considered unique to Mongolian culture. The Mongolian deel is supremely well adapted to the conditions of life on the steppe and the daily activities of pastoral nomads, where it is not only ideal for riding but is also used for such things as a bedroll when camping on the steppe. The nomadic herders wear it every day in the countryside and in the city, people will wear the deel at special events and specific traditional festivals, such as Tsagaan sar (new moon festival) and Naadam (summer festival). As a symbolic artefact, the deel is always worn with a scarf, which symbolizes strength and vitality and as such, the deel outfit is to Mongolians a symbol of pride and ethnic origin. Many deels are passed down from father to son and mother to daughter. These deels are special in the sense that they are infused with good fortune. When a new deel is made, family and friends will praise it and give the owner money as a symbol of good luck and fortune. During these deel ceremonies people will say “the deel might be worn and tattered in time, but the owner will always stay strong and proud”. Being a robe of ethnic and family identification, people identify others by the way the deel is distinguished by its cut, color, and trimming and making delicate variations to the design is key to standing out. Having a family deel or a deel of the latest is a sign of good fortune and wealth. The deel is therefore not only a robe or overcoat, but also an artefact of good luck and fortune, infused with family history and legacy to be respected and worn with pride.

//Malthe Lehrmann

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putting thought to things

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