14 January 2010

A&S 50: Material Culture six: Indoor Hareem

It's not period, but my goal with this track is to create a more period persona and that includes the environment. Creating a separate space-- even though it's not as separate as a harem would have been in period-- evokes the Islamic world and reminds us that we are in a locality when we are dressed up in our garb. My hareem adds to the flare of the activity and helps make that transition from the modern world for participants and onlookers.

In period, the harem was a inviolable physical space where men from outside the family were not allowed. In larger household it could a separate wing, building or suite. In poorer households it could be a curtain or screen that was erected when male guests were in the house (Goitein). In my colonial home I envision it blocking off the dining room (and, thus, kitchen) from view. Or it could be the entire upstairs.

The image of the harem as a sexually charged environment comes from the 19th C ethnographers who only imagined what was happening with multiple wives in the rooms they were not allowed. In reality it was the family space where one could "let her hair down" and not fear inappropriate exposure. Children could play with their toys and be noisy, and pedestrian activities like hand crafts and grooming took place.

My hareem still needs some work. I want to find 30/60 PVC joints so I can make it 4 feet shorter. I want to put hand holds in the "feet" so they're easier to carry around as well. It is, now, exactly what I planned when I started though, and the changes are being made as they prove useful.

Indoor Peri-oid structure
Julia May, aka Samia al-Kaslaania
February 2009

The roof is a Persian-inspired gold w/ floral motif. The walls are coral colored silk twill ($3 silk from SR Harris, baby!). The roof structure is PVC and the uprights are oak dowels. The "feet" are square boards with a pipe flange and pipe-nipple. (Give your ear and let me expound about the value of a pipe-nipple!) The footprint is 7'6" square, and the pyramid is lifted 6' off the ground.

This is the first time I was able to put it up. I couldn't do a "fitting" for  the roof and PVC structure at home because we don't have a place big enough to set it up. I'm really glad I didn't try to fudge it too, because we learned that the square on the bottom of the pyramid needs to be in sleeves for it to be stable. I will also be adding a valance of the roof fabric, and a "sub valance" to hang the "walls" from.

I have a low octagonal table to use (a gift from my dad and his wife), and a fabric "table cloth" (actually used under the table in period so that the crumbs were caught and could be tossed outside).  We'll need a few more cushions too.

Now that I have set it up once I am comfortable making the bags to contain all the parts. I didn't want to do that until I knew we had all the right parts! Checheyigan had some canvas that was no longer associated with a project which will be the bags for this.

The PVC and oak were $85. The pipe flanges and nipples were $25. The feet used about 1/4 of an $24 sheet of wood= $6. The fabric was $85 (a steal). The total is about $215. (I know I'm missing something from the list).