Honor & identity


To illustrate the way in which wearable heritage is connected to aspects like honor and identity, I will use the example of the (face) veil. In the WANA region face veils are worn for several reasons. The veil is worn for protection, against immorality, the (natural) elements and it is worn against the supernatural, like the Evil Eye.
It is also worn to show the group identity of a person and draw the individual into anonymity at the same time. On the other hand the veil will be recognizable and very personal, since personal amulets are sewn onto these pieces of cloth. The veil also represents the honor of a person both in moral sense and in economic sense and social status, since the veil is decorated with riches of the dowry or mahr. The veils are made of precious textiles and are often decorated with valuable objects, coins, stones and beads. Besides, by wearing the veil a person bestows honor onto the people he or she meets and onto a higher being or God.
In the West Asian and North African region, items that I have called wearable heritage, often less than 100 years old, are not valued similarly as in Europe or America. What has almost become a new lifestyle for the European region - culture and heritage - is in the WANA region often still being designated as old-fashioned and backward. Veils like the ones we described are worn less and less often for that reason.
Antique head covers in carefully lighted displays in Europe, that are sold for thousands of euro’s on the internet market, are sold in Turkmenistan for a fraction of the price to tourists. For the European visitor these head covers and veils symbolize authenticity and handicrafts long ago practiced in their own region. They also symbolize uniqueness, they still a hunger for romanticism and identity. Arab face veils are the representation of group identity and uniqueness that is lacking in Europe.