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In September 2010 Erin commenced working on Interweavings, a research project based in the Sultanate of Oman. The project team set out to document regional Omani folk arts, but with a specific focus. The initial research indicated a general lack of understanding and dearth of academic publications about Omani women’s culture(s). As such the team chose to focus on documenting women’s traditions, specifically their clothing (the various styles, methods of production, beliefs about and wearing practices) and their verbal arts (i.e. folktales, sayings and songs). This project is of particular importance now as the material and verbal traditions of Oman are changing due to rapid modernization.

As the focus of the project dealt with women’s culture it was important, for reasons of cultural sensitivity, to use only female data collectors in the field. The findings would not have been as diverse and rich without the involvement of 12 female translations students from Sohar University. These women were the gatekeepers to communities otherwise inaccessible; they made this project a success. Utilising the existing social and kin networks of the students’ Erin was the field data collector and over the course of 6 months drove over 20 000 kms, took 8000 photographs and recorded hours of interviews, folk song and poems. Erin spent time with various communities and families across Oman, embedding herself in local culture.

The project aimed to promote cultural understanding of regional variations within Oman whilst developing relations between Oman and the wider world. The project’s team believed that through showing the traditions of one country on the Arabian Peninsula, tolerance and appreciation of Arabic culture in general could be promoted.

The research team continue to work with the data findings and publish on a regular basis. Publications to date include;

  • Roche, T., Roche, E. and Al-Saidi (2014) The Dialogic Fashioning of Women’s Dress in the Sultanate of Oman Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea. Taylor and Francis 4:1, pp 38-51,
  • Roche, T., Roche, E. and Al-Saidi (2012) Interwoven: Women’s Dress Practices and Identity on the Arabian Peninsula International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 10 pp.133-144
  • Roche, T. and Roche, E. (2012) Interwoven: Identity and Dress amongst Sedentary and Nomadic Peoples of the Arabian Peninsula Brownie, B. Petican, L. and Reponen, J. (Editors) Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues. Interdisciplinary Press: Oxford United Kingdom, Chapter 3, pp.109-120

Being involved in Interweavings has dramatically changed how I view the significance of dress and the perception of other cultures. As my work in professional research expands so does my ability to include these anthropological and ethnographic aspects into my designing.
Erin Roche