Learning About A Culture Through A Shoe

Apr 25, 2014

Shoes may be able to tell you a lot about someone. They can signify gender, culture, or economic status. Recently, the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces held a workshop to find out what can be learned from examining a shoe.

At the afternoon workshop Dr. Elisabeth Stone, Curator of Education at the Branigan Cultural Center puts on a pair of latex gloves, opens a box and pulls out two leather Kurdish Shoes called, "Charoghs." These shoes may resemble moccasins to some. However, by simply examining these shoes we begin to learn more about the Nomadic Kurdish Culture. Dr. Stone explains:

“Kurdish nomadic pastoralists move throughout the year seasonally from the highlands to the lowlands and because they do not have traditional personal individual ownership of the land, there is no traditional domestic crop farming among the Kurdish traditional life-way,” says Dr. Stone.

According to Dr. Stone, nomadic pastoralists raise animals like sheep, cattle, and goats. They are master craftsmen and may use shoes like these to trade for food that they may not grow.

The Kurdish culture has many different styles of shoes. These shoes are more embellished by design; that gives us a clue on what time period in the last century that these shoes may have been made.

“This particular pair when we take a look at them a little more carefully we can see the embellishments are a plastic sequence, they were invented in the early sixties. So this pair was actually made after the mid-sixties,” says Dr. Stone.

Stone says that the culture also has many different styles that can signify a certain status.  While examining the shoes the team at the Branigan Cultural Center discovered an interesting thing about these particular shoes. Although these particular shoes look similar, two craftsmen with different skill levels made them.

“We can see a little variation in craftsmanship. We can also see some of these things that held the shoe together as a style; some things that are very consistent between the two shoes and between other shoes that are in museums that have collections more associated with Kurdish dress,” says Dr. Stone.

These shoes are not on display at the Branigan Cultural Center. They are part of artifacts that are included in ongoing workshops offered to the public throughout the year that allow guests to view objects that may not be on display in the museum.