Any idea what you’d take from home if you started to roam?
PEOPLE mistakenly think that nomadic tribes just aimlessly wander about their countryside.
In fact, they tend to follow established routes, arrive at specific places at certain times of the year and can stay there for extended periods of time.
These routes are often determined by the weather at different times of the year when it is necessary to move to warmer, drier terrain or when it is better to temporarily relocate to high or low ground.
Sometimes, the routes lead to traditional meeting places where extended family groups can gather together to celebrate cultural and religious occasions and carry out important communal rituals. The point is that whilst the precise routes that nomadic groups may take will vary, there is always a routine and a structure to their wanderings.
This is absolutely necessary for tribal existence as there are times when animals need to graze and food needs to be gathered, even if it has not been farmed and just grows in the wild. Even the most “primitive” hunter-gatherer societies are acutely aware of this otherwise they would have long since perished, as so many have done before them.
When it was explained to one nomad that in our sophisticated Western culture, we tend to live in one home, in one place for long periods of time, he looked sad and worried. He felt a deep sorrow that we would, therefore, have to look at the same view every day, be surrounded by the same trees, the same buildings, the same roads for ever and by being so restricted, we would be all the poorer.
However beautiful and inspirational the view might be, he saw this as akin to a selfinflicted prison sentence. He also thought that having wardrobes and drawers full of clothes from which to choose the right ones to wear on any particular day was irksome, time-consuming and pointless.
However, we should not think that nomadic people have no belongings or that what they carry with them are the bare essentials of life. It is true that functional objects such as a simple cooking pot may be ornately embellished so that it fulfils both a practical need and also a decorative and aesthetic one at the same time. Some things like jewellery, headdresses or masks are clearly not tools but a way to demonstrate social position and esteem, wealth and power or simply to differentiate one person from another. They may be helpful in attracting a husband or wife or ensuring that social customs and laws are upheld or just make life that little bit more tolerable.
Strangely enough, in that way, there suddenly appears to be rather less difference between the nomad carrying his relatively few possessions from place to place and the way that we accumulate ours, whether for comfort, entertainment, to attract the opposite sex or merely for a little bit of one-upmanship. So here’s a little game that can be played during a quiet moment over the Christmas holidays. It is a little variation on “What would you save from your home if it caught fire?” but this time it is “What would you take with you from home if you suddenly became a nomad?”
You might choose a treasured penknife that had been passed down from a grandfather, which has both functional and deeply sentimental resonances, or it might be something purely functional and utterly without soul like a sturdy pair of walking boots. The choice is yours and you may, if you like, care to share your selection with us.
If you would like to share you selections and the reasons for them with Robin and Pat please email them care of [email protected] jpress.co.uk
Robin and Patricia Silver are owners of The Home store at Salts Mill, Saltaire, www. thehomeonline.co.uk. For more information about Salts Mill, which also has a gallery of David Hockney paintings, shops, exhibitions, a large book store and restaurants, visit www.saltsmill. org.uk