Bulgun Okonova, Family Relics and Inherited Objects
MetadataShow full item record
Terbish, B., & Churyumova, E. (2018). Bulgun Okonova, Family Relics and Inherited Objects [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.23864
In this interview Bulgun shows and talks about relics and objects that stay in her family. These objects include a blanket, a carpet, a buckle, a belt, a scabbard, a cup, a spindle, a horse bridle, a whip, a ring, a wallet and a couple of tokug (metal pendants attached to women’s tresses). Bulgun: This felt blanket is made from the wool of a real Kalmyk sheep with a short tail. It is autumn wool, because the blanket rolls well. The thread that is used here is made from camel’s wool. It required a skill to sew with thread on a felt surface. A brown spot in the middle of the blanket is made from another, thicker wool. You can see this. The blanket has become heavy now. In the past, it was white and light. A lot of years have passed since then. My mother and mother-in-law made this blanket in 1940. It was new and rolled up, when I got married to my husband. My mother-in-law unrolled it and gave it to me, saying: ‘Take it. Don’t let children urinate on it. Keep it clean and tidy’. Back then we did not have a mattress. We put this felt blanket on top of straw. In the past, (in order to make felt) people rolled the wool, sprinkled it with water. It was a very hard work. Evdokia: How many layers does this blanket have? Bulgun: Looks like it has two layers. In the past, people made various covers and pillows from felt. Clothes were kept inside a big pillow with embroidery. There were no chests or lockers. All clothes were kept inside a pillow or put underneath one’s feet. I remember, my mother also had a beautiful, soft pillow with buttons. Those who could make it, made pillows. Those who could not, did not have pillows. This is tobacco. My mother did not smoke, but put tobacco on various things, carpets, clothes (to protect them from moths). This carpet was made in 1875. When my grandfather got married at 18 he took this carpet to cover the chests (cupboards) in his tent. Evdokia: Is it made from wool? Bulgun: Yes, pure wool. A hand-made carpet. My grandmother kept it. Now I do. Many people ask me about this carpet: how old is it? what is it made from? Evdokia: Why did you not put this carpet on the floor? Bulgun: I wanted to put it on the floor, but my children were against it: ‘Mother, don’t do this. Your feet will ache. Let it hang on the wall’. I don’t touch this carpet with my feet, because I am afraid to do so. What will happen if my legs start to hurt? It will be even worse, given my present condition. That is why I do not keep the carpet on the floor. On 9 May we will have a meeting at home. People gather in our house since when my husband was alive. They kill a sheep, make dishes, lay tables in the rooms and call the neighbours. At such gatherings we remember our ancestors. Afterwards we go to the cemetery, put food out and return home to sit at the table. This is a man’s belt called tovrun. It was made from pure silver in 1928. My husband’s father died early. In 1937 he participated in Olympic games. The Kalmyks were in their traditional costumes and wore traditional belts. My husband’s father wore this belt at that event. The belt was longer before. We removed some parts. Afterwards we did not put those parts back. Nobody wears it now. I keep it at the bottom of my chest (cupboard). Evdokia: What is that? Bulgun: This is a buckle. The belt is locked like this, and unlocked like this. Evdokia: What are the ornaments on it? Bulgun: It is blackening. Evdokia: Why is the belt called tovrun? Bulgun: The belt is worn on top of a beshmet (a man’s robe). In the past, men wore black beshmets. The belt has a tovrun stamping and an avdr stamping (the avdr stamping looks like bullets). Tovrun is the name of a stamping style. Evdokia: Whose work is this belt? Bulgun: A man called Muuzhg Khozhakinov made it. Evdokia: Tell us more about him. Bulgun: He was a blacksmith. I don’t know him personally, but my mother told me that this belt is his work. Evdokia: Was he your relative? Bulgun: No. For each belt he charged a cow. It was difficult to make each and every stamping on such belts. When he was at work, he would let nobody near him. He worked by himself and showed nobody what he was doing. My father said to me: ‘I went to see how he was making a belt, but each time he would chase me away’. This was his secret. Evdokia: Did his relatives learn how to make belts? Bulgun: No. He had two sons, none learnt how to make belts. This is a scabbard that belonged to Purvya Okonov. He used to attach it to his waist like this. The scabbard has the same ornaments as the belt. Many years ago soldiers took away the original knife from this scabbard. They said to my mother: ‘What do you need this dagger for?’ The soldiers took away the original knife, but my mother managed to keep the scabbard and the belt. I put inside the scabbard a simple knife that my husband used to cut meat with. Evdokia: Who made the original knife? Bulgun: The same craftsman. Evdokia: So, you paid a cow for the belt and the knife? Bulgun: Yes. By the way, this cup, made from pure silver, is for putting offerings. When he was a child, our oldest son damaged the cup’s neck with a hammer. Later we fixed it. Evdokia: Who made this cup? Bulgun: The same craftsman, Muuzhg Khozhakinov. He also made a cup for a candle. This is also his scoop. In the past, the Kalmyks made vodka from milk. The elders tried vodka with such scoops. This scoop has its edge damaged. It is all my fault – I left it out everywhere and cut bread on top of it. Otherwise the scoop would have been intact. Evdokia: Did this scoop have a handle? Bulgun: Yes, it had one. My old father used to drink tea from it. The handle fell off. My husband attached it back and said: ‘Why throw it away? Let’s keep it. This scoop belonged to my grandfather. Let children see it and remember him’. So, I keep it over there. This is a spindle that belonged to my mother-in-law. She used it a lot in Siberia. I also used it until I bought myself a spinning-wheel. I did not throw it out. When you apply butter, it shines. Today nobody uses spindles, all people use spinning-wheels. Evdokia: How did you spin? Bulgun: Like this. When we travelled to a cattle-breeding farm we took a spinning-wheel with us. We also spun when we were grazing the livestock in the steppe. This is a horse bridle, also made from pure silver. Muuzhg Khozhakinov’s work. This metal rod has to be made from a strong metal. Otherwise a horse can easily bite it apart. Evdokia: What is it called? Bulgun: Amga (in Kalmyk). If you put this bridle on a horse, it will fall apart as easily as a piece of old cloth, because it has not been used for years. Evdokia: What leather is it made from? Bulgun: From cattle pelt. The pelt is first left in milk and then processed. Cow’s pelt makes strong belts. This bridle is already old and worn out. It is as old as its owners. This is a whip called malya. It costed us a fortune. In the past, during weddings the representatives of the groom were beaten with such a whip. My mother used to say: ‘Because they beat them with a whip, nobody wants to go to weddings as delegates’. Evdokia: What kind of wood is the handle made from? Bulgun: Oriental plane (chinar). Evdokia: Why? Bulgun: A person who holds a whip made from the wood of oriental plane is afraid of nothing, because nothing will prevail him. People should keep a small piece of this wood in their pockets. All our boys have it. I had a pen made from this tree, which I cut it into pieces and gave to our boys. When you walk alone in the steppe, you are afraid of nothing. Evdokia: How do you weave a whip? Bulgun: I don’t know. This one is hand-woven. It has something inside. When you beat somebody with such a whip, it really hurts. This is a wallet that our grandfather used. There are even several Soviet kopek coins inside it. I show them to my grandchildren. This is a ring from a children’s belt that belonged to my husband and his younger brother. We had two rings, only one is left now. In Baga Bukhus we had a good craftsman, Muuzhg Khozhakinov, who made quality things. There were others, but they were not as good. These tokugs (metal pendants) are also his work. They belonged to my mother who wore them all the time.
Family relics, blanket, carpet, buckle, belt, cup, bridle, whip, ring, wallet, scabbard
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.23864
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/