I saw some, at my friend's house, in a bowl of decorative, round objects, and I recognized them immediately as handspun yarns from the souk.
Except they weren't. They are Tibetan, she told me, and she bought them in Nepal. I was amazed by the similarity: the general gauge, or thickness of the yarn, the variation, the high twist, indicating that it's meant for rugged materials, were all the same. This set my mind working on the shared culture of nomads, but my thoughts were interrupted when my friend said that well, the yarns in the souk were probably imported or made by Nepalis anyway.
Suddenly I found myself vouching for the authenticity of the souk yarns, having seen the spindles and the spinning of wool myself. I was surprisingly invested in convincing her that this was real, handspun yarn and the women I met in the souk are real Bedouins - primarily because it is the truth, and when it comes to textile making I'm always concerned that people know the facts.
The conversation that followed made me wonder about the desire for authenticity in a place or an experience, and the degree to which one's own preconceptions shape what one will accept as authentic. Of course this authenticity discussion is a huge, amorphous topic that has no edges nor hope of resolution.
What I wanted to keep thinking about, though, is the role that textile making plays as a marker of authenticity.... When I went looking for Bedouin weavers in Qatar, I was not in search of authenticity - just weaving. People making things. Yes, I hoped to find people that were weaving in a way that was typical in times past, a technique with some historical continuity. Having found that, and the production of yarn that goes with it, I guess my point is that I didn't need to raise the issue or mention the word authenticity. Work was being done with fiber, and I began taking note of how it was done. The work I witnessed correlates with other forms of Bedouin spinning and weaving as documented throughout the Arab world, and so I consider it traditional Bedouin textile production. But the most important point is that people are spinning and weaving.
So what is it that is so fundamental in this process, that erases doubt? How does textile making embody cultural preservation? It seems to me that it essentially does, and in different ways depending on the culture under discussion, but this knowledge of how to make is the essence. Especially when it enables people to make clothing and shelter, two of the main requisites and defining aspects of any people. Perhaps it comes down to this: knowing how to provide for a family or community through spinning and weaving is proof of culture bearing.