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Dezful (Iran)

1- General information about Dezful and its cultural capacities


1-1- General information about Dezful

Dezful is a city of Khuzestan province on the south-west of Iran. Covering an area of 4762 km2, Dezful is located at the 48˚.17'- 49˚.34' east longitude from Greenwich meridian and at the 32˚.58' north latitude from the equator.


Dezful was part of Elam and Achaemenid empires' territories. Orientalists have estimated that the city dates back to 5000 years ago when Dezful was known as "Avan", the capital of Elam about 2600 B.C., but its best historical era goes back to Sassanid era. Andmishen, Qasr-e Ronash, Ronash and Andimeshk are Dezful's other historical names.


According to the 2016 population and housing census, its population was 443971 people and is composed of several ethnic groups, each of which speaks with a different dialect or has a special accent.

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Dezful's height is 140 meters above sea level and enjoys Mediterranean winters and autumns. Its diverse ecosystem houses different species of animals and plants.


Dezful has long been a unique strategic location and being located on the Tehran- south highway contributes to its industrial and economic prosperity today. Having flowing rivers of Dez and Karkhe which pass through Dezful's fertile plain have led to agricultural prosperity, Animal husbandry and fisheries in this area; in addition, the prosperity of several handicrafts in Dezful has created sustainable job opportunities for many people.


1-2- Dezful's historical and cultural privileges and attractions

The most important historical and cultural privileges and attractions of Dezful are as follow:

- The presence of about 30 handicrafts types;

- The register of about 20 cases in Iran's intangible cultural heritage list;

- The register of over 30 historical and ancient attractions in Iran national heritage list;

- The presence of one of the most important historical contexts in Iran with an approximate extend of 240 hectares, including rivers, mosques, Sabats (covered hallways), bathhouses and old passages;

- The presence of a big century-old traditional bazaar in Dezful. Despite extreme changes in people's lifestyle, many traditional jobs can still be seen in Dezful's bazaar and some people still produce traditional products;

- The register of dezful's 87 traditional houses in Iran's National works list;

- The use of some historical sites in handicrafts field;

- The presence of prominent literary, scientific and artistic people;

- Dezful's reputation as Iran's brick museum due to the plethora of a unique kind of bricklaying in historical context parts.


2- The history of Kapu weaving in Dezful and its relevant aspects


2-1- Dezful kapu weaving origin

Kapu weaving is one type of Iran's wicker handicrafts and Dezful's local handicraft. In this handicraft, practical or decorative products called Kapu are produced from a combination of palm tree leaves and Kertaki (a plant with a scientific name Desmostachya bipinnata stapf).


Among wicker products historical samples with a similar weaving structure as Kapu products, one can refer to the found samples in Sistan's Shahr-e Sukhteh, Dasht-e Moqan's Tepe Hemmat and Damqan's Tepe Hisar.


There are no citable information and works about the historical background in Dezful, but Kapu weaving most likely dates back to more than two century in some of the villages of this area. Considering Khuzestan's climatic conditions, this area has always enjoyed the conditions of cultivating palm and making use of its parts like leaves. This has led to crafts such as Kapu weaving. Bakhtiyari girls and women weave Kapu products. In the past, Bakhtiyari nomads had a handicraft called Tavize weaving in which they produced products from the barley and wheat stalks by using the same method as Kapu weaving. Now, these kinds of products are rarely produced in the mentioned areas.


In the past, some Bakhtiyari women embarked on creating and completing the handicraft of Kapu weaving by the same way as Tavize weaving in a way that by increasing its quantitative and qualitative levels and using the motifs of Bakhtiyari's handwovens crafts, Kapu weaving has been introduced as one of the local handicraft of this region in recent decades.


2-2- Diversity of Dezful's Kapu products

Regarding the materials, Kapu product includes two kinds: simple Kapu (wicker or motifless) and cotton Kapu (patterned). Regarding the weaving method, Kapu product includes three kinds: simple-textured, brick-textured and eclectic textured Kapus. Regarding the appearance, Kapu product includes two kinds: flat and volumed Kapus. Each Kapu product may be produced in several sizes. The most common products include catering utensils (nuts, fruits and ...), bread or dough basket, tray, plate, sugar pot, kettle mat, clothes basket, vase, different kinds of boxes (sewing supplies box and tissue box), different kinds of lidded and lidless baskets and 2-3- Dezful Kapu's patterns and motifs Dezful's Kapu motifs are geometrical, symmetrical and derived from the ethnic culture and the most prevalent ones include diamond, zigzag, flag, tulip, butterfly, Chalipa and paisley.


Kapu's patterns are usually symmetrical and are balanced, proportional and in harmony based on the visual elements. Most patterns are derived from the repetition of geometrical motifs in different arrangements. In Kapu products, a variety of Color composition, specially Green and brown colors, are used with great diversity.


2-4- Kapu weaving's tools

The most important tools are needle, scissors, knife and sickle.


2-5- Kapu's production method

The production process of flat Kapu includes: 1- preparing the materials, 2- preparing the leaves, 3-preparing Kertaki (the plant), 4- laying the base, 5- making the product's edge, 6- creation the motifs (along with the weaving progress), 7- making the product's categories. The production process of volume Kapu includes: 1- preparing the materials, 2- preparing the leaves, 3- preparing Kertaki, 4- laying the base, 5-making the product's walls, 6- creation the motifs (along with the weaving progress), 7- making the product's lid, 8- producing and installing the cotton tassel.


2-6- culture and traditions related to Dezful's Kapu weaving

2-6-1- The relevant aspects to raw materials

Palm tree leaves are Dezful Kapu's main material. From Khuzestan's palm owners' perspective, on each palm there are four types of leaves, which from the palm crown to the sides include leaves, which are located at the center of the palm branches, and due to not being ripe enough have yellowish white color. This kind of leaf is called heart and is the most desirable for Kapu weaving. After the heart and towards the outer side, there are two kinds of leaves with green color and are used to make Kapus with average quality. The leaves on the farthest side, which surround other leaves, are not used in Kapu weaving due to low quality.


After harvesting dates in august and September, palm owners separate the palm leaves. Some leaves may be separated from the tree on the fertilization time. The heartleaves, which are the best, are taken from the trees, which are barren for different reasons such as termite .In addition; a small part of heartleaves is separated from some trees, which have lots of this type of leaf. If all heartleaves are separated from a tree, that tree will die. A wild plant known as keratki is used as the axis of Kapu's warp. This plant can be abundantly found near streams and springs in most of Dezful's plain. Family members gather and sort this plant on weekends to weave Kapu.


2-6-2- The aspects relevant to the product

Most of Kapu's motifs are taken from the motifs of Bakhtiyari's handwovens. Bakhtiyaries as a big ethnicity create diverse motifs on their handwovens which aside from decoration, roots in their beliefs. These motifs include animals, plants, objects and abstract. Moreover' some of these motifs are taken from the motifs of a kind of bricklaying which can be abundantly seen in Dezful. In the past, Kapu played a role in local people's daily life and now, it has a desirable market in urban and rural communities of other areas due to diversity in form, dimension, motif and color. Kapu's products have decorative, practical or decorative- practical functions. They are often used as catering utensils or as an interior decoration. Their names indicate their functions. In recent decades, by increasing the diversity of the product, some Kapu weavers have embarked on producing a set of house and kitchen utensils as a dowry. This has become prevalent among the locals.


3- Craftsmen and artists


3-1- Kapu weavers' population

About twenty years ago, there were fewer than 50 Kapu weavers in some of Dezful's villages. In the last 20 years, this handicraft has experienced a remarkable growth due to some research, which introduced it in this field, being in handicrafts Exhibitions, governmental and nongovernmental customers' support, young educated girls' presence in this handicraft, and young Kapu weavers familiarity with foreign similar products. As a result, more than 2600 people at different ages are involved in producing new products these days.


Kapu weaving is done by women and girls. In this handicraft, age does not matter and students at different ages can practice learning the skill to be a master at it. Some people may start the art at middle ages. More than 90 percent of Kapu weavers have acquired the skill through informal training and mentor-protégé method and start their work in workshops. Kapu weavers have a good interaction and cooperation with each other in different fields such as training, sale, or obviating job problems like weaving techniques, motifs, dyeing, supplying raw materials and so on.


3-2- Kapu weavers' income

Master of kapu weaving have reached the acme of expertise over time and have mastery over Kapu weaving's techniques. Each of these mentors have played an important role in transforming and completing this handicraft.


3-3- Kapu weavers income status

A few Kapu weavers are employed by private companies and earn money for making a definite number of Kapu monthly, but most Kapu weavers do not have a stable income. Their income depends on the quality, the price and the number of woven products each month. The number of orders differs at different times but Most Kapu weavers are often satisfied with their income and can make their ends meet.


Some Kapu weavers try to increase their income by using the following methods:

- Being in local and national handicrafts Exhibitions, ethnicity festivals and foreign handicrafts Exhibitions;

- Supplying the product in stores and markets;

- Supplying the product in online Stores and social media.


3-4- Kapu weavers' working conditions (insurance and welfare benefits)

In recent years, the government has insured a large number of Kapu weavers who have production license and skill card. In this insurance, two third of insurance amount is paid by government. People under insurance can retire and receive pension after 20 years of working or at the age 55 although most of them keep working after retirement. People under insurance can use the health services of insurance company.

Granting facilities with low interest in order to equip and start Kapu weaving workshops, funding Kapu weaving's stalls in handicrafts Exhibitions, granting gratuitous facilities for unexpected situations like earthquake, corona pandemic. Free training courses, distributing free product packaging and giving free stalls in handicrafts markets are other state measures to support Kapu weavers.


4- Kapu weaving workshops and Kapu products sales centers


4-1- Kapu weaving workshops

In Dezful, there are more than 1100 home workshops, in some of which, there is a distinct space or room for Kapu weaving process and in others each part of the house can be used for Kapu weaving. Around 30 big workshops exist in some rural and urban areas.


4-2- The most important Kapu sales center

The most important sales centers of Capo products include the following:

4-2-1- Handicrafts markets

The handicrafts organization has stablished a market to sell handicrafts products in the most important tourism route of Dezful and most of the stalls are given to Kapu weavers. This measure has led to an increase in sales amount and has reinforced Kapu weavers financial status.


On the other hand, the handicrafts organization runs markets to sell local handicrafts for a short time on specific occasions and other markets in universities and state organizations.


4-2-2- Dezful traditional market

Kapu products are presented in some store of traditional markets; buying Kapu and other local products as souvenirs are one of the reasons why this market flourished.


4-2-3- Handicrafts Exhibitions

Annually, some Kapu weavers take part in local and national handicrafts Exhibitions or ethnic festivals under the handicrafts organization support and sell large amount of their product. In recent years, some Kapu weavers have even taken part in foreign handicrafts Exhibitions.


4-2-4- Handicrafts stores

There are over 15 handicrafts, especially Kapu, stores in Dezful which sell products to tourists and distribute products to other areas.


4-2-5- Online stores and social media

Kapu products are introduced and sold on some handicrafts websites; in addition, some telegram channels and Instagram pages distribute and sell Kapu products.


5- Training

5-1- Long-term academic and formal training (higher education centers and universities)

There are 15 universities and higher education centers in Dezful. Although most of them work in fields not related to art and handicrafts, some play an undeniable role in introducing, advertising and developing some aspects related to Kapu weaving.


Among the higher education center, Islamic Azad University accepts students in art fields such as architecture and visual relations. There have so far been various cooperations between this university and handicrafts organization and some students have chosen handicrafts as their dissertation.


5-2- Medium-term and formal training (schools and high schools)

In the last five years, Kapu weaving training has been held in "Technical and Vocational" schools and over 200 people were trained and then engaged in this field. Moreover, education ministry has decided to run Kapu weaving course at "work and knowledge" schools. In this three-year course, students receive Kapu weaving diploma after passing elementary, intermediate and advanced courses.


5-3- Short-term and formal training (courses and workshops)

Each year, the handicrafts organization runs classes on elementary, intermediate and advanced levels for Kapu weavers. In the last ten years, over 300 people have acquired the skill and are working in this field. In addition, some short training workshops have been held for Dezful's handicrafts artists and some active Kapu weavers have attended these workshops. The most important workshops are internet marketing, workshop standardization, materials and tools, packaging, entrepreneurship and product design.


5-4- Informal training (traditional)

In Kapu handicraft, women and girls at different ages acquire Kapu weaving skills and traditions in a mentor-protégé method from a family member and start work in home workshops. In this method, students learn by watching a mentor closely. Over ninety percent of Kapu weavers have been trained this way. In the last five years, more than 500 people have started working in Kapu weaving.


6- Publications and advertisements about Dezful Kapu weaving


6-1- Publishing handicrafts books in Farsi

In 2018, while writing the comprehensive encyclopedia of Khuzestan's handicrafts, Kapu weaving handicraft was documented as an independent project. The aim was the precise documentation of Kapu weaving different aspects in order to create documents or use promotion techniques. Other researches about Kapu weaving include two books, three research plans, two dissertations and three articles.


6-2- Publishing Bilingual handicrafts books

In recent years, some bilingual and trilingual catalogues about Khuzestan and Dezful tourist attractions have been published in high circulation and distributed among tourists. This year, preparing and publishing bilingual books ,"Dezful Kapu weaving" and" Dezful, the city of Kapu weaving", are one of handicrafts organization plans.


6-3- Advertising in Dezful Kapu weaving

6-3-1- Documentaries/ radio programs about Kapu weaving

A professional documentary, more than 100 minutes of various TV programs, some radio programs and many unprofessional short clips have been produced by far. In addition, programs about the importance and status of local handicrafts and its various aspects and especially exclusive programs about Kapu weaving have been produced and broadcast among weekly programs in Dezful radio.


6-3-2- Kapu weaving in Dezful local press

There are more than 10 local press in Dezful which affect the introduction of Kapu to its readers.


6-3-3- Kapu weaving in social media

There are many websites, weblogs and social networks in handicrafts field, some of which introduce, train and sell Kapu products.


6-3-4- Brochures and catalogues about Kapu weaving

Handicrafts organization annually releases catalogues and brochures to introduce local handicrafts and distribute them among visitors in markets, Exhibitions, stores and festivals.


7- Creative cooperation programs


7-1- Kapu weaving promotion programs

7-1-1- Registering the geographic indication of Dezful Kapu

In 2018, "the geographic indication of Dezful Kapu" was registered in Iran's intellectual property organization.


7-1-2- Identifying, categorizing and correcting motifs and patterns

In 2016, "Identifying, categorizing and correcting motifs and patterns of Kapu products" project was

conducted to develop Kapu weaving.


7-1-3- Designing new products

In 2017, after examining more than 400 Kapu products in a comprehensive project called "designing

and modeling Kapu products", their weak and strong points were identified, consequently 30 new

products which maintained the local originality were designed and were conceded to Kapu weavers.

Two years later, this project was conducted in the same way.

After this project, some experimenter Kapu weavers, inspired by product design project and having

cooperated in handicrafts quality sign program, had different experiences in product design.


7-1-4- Cooperating in handicrafts quality sign program

Kapu weavers have so far managed to receive 44 handicrafts international and national quality sign

for Kapu products.


7-1-5- Innovating new ways in the production of the product

The most important innovative aspects, which have been manifested in recent decade Include:

-Innovating brick weaving pattern and combining it with Kapu's usual weaving pattern for

decorating the product;

-Innovating creative methods of making handles for the product;

-Combined use of raw and natural materials like wood, leather and pottery in Kapu products;

-Completing the ways to make volumed lidded Kapu products based on common standards;

-Designing and making Kapu products with triangular, rectangular and polygon base;

- Designing and making multi-piece Kapu products;

-Identifying and using local original motifs and using them for Kapu products.


7-1-6- Supplying and distributing Kapu products packaging

In 2014, the Handicrafts organization prepared and distributed free packaging for capu products.


7-2- Scientific projects

7-2-1- Compiling national standard

In 2013 and 2014, Iran's two national standards about Kapu's Specifications and Code of practice

Edited, approved and published.


7-2-2- Compiling job training standard

In 2004, Kapu's job training standard was passed in order to teach Kapu weaving in Technical and

Vocational centers.


7-2-3- Registering Kapu weaving in intangible heritage list

In 2011, "Kapu weaving skill" was registered in Iran's intangible heritage list.


7-2-4- Making educational film

In 2019, "Kapu weaving's comprehensive educational film" was produced in two languages. This film

introduces the historical background, products, motifs, patterns, color composition, raw materials,

tools and production process of different kinds of Kapu products. This film was released in large

circulation and tourists and Kapu weavers had a free access to it.


8- General view of the city


8-1- Urban elements related to Kapu weaving

In Pamenar which is the main center of Kapu weaving in Dezful, one can see a simple and big element of the old and original product of Kapu. In the most important touristic path of Dezful, a square called "Kapu" is built which includes elements of Kapu products. The element's pedestal is decorated with Kapu's motifs and Dezful's bricklaying motifs.


8-2- Using handicrafts in decorating office spaces and places

In some of Dezful's important offices like municipality and government offices, there is a special showcase to exhibit the local handicrafts, particularly Kapu products. In some of Dezful's restaurants, cafes, ecotourism resorts and garden restaurants, some Kapu products like tissue box, rubbish bin and reception tray are used.


8-3- Using handicrafts symbols at the city entrance (special brand exhibit)

On the roads leading to Dezful, special touristic signs are installed to make visitors familiar with the city's handicrafts and Kapu weaving. At Dezful's main entrances, billboards are installed to introduce Kapu as Dezful's handicrafts.

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