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Kepenek (shepherd's Cloak)

This is a Kepenek (shepherd's cloak). It is dated 2008 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is wool and its technique is felted. It is a part of the Textiles department.

There is no scholarly consensus on the earliest use of the kepenek, or shepherd’s cloak, but Veronika Gervers of the Royal Ontario Museum, who wrote extensively on both traditional felt-making practices and the coats, mantles and cloaks of Central Asia, suggests that the form has been in use since at least the Middle Ages.
Felt is considered to be the earliest man-made fabric, and was critical to the survival of many early communities. There are regional variations of the kepenek: cloaks of the coastal region of Turkey have hoods, and some have sleeves; in Iran, the coats are made with the vestigial sleeves typical of Persian ceremonial garments. Historically, colored markings on the front of the typically white cloak included the symbol of the local felt-maker’s guild, along with the weight of wool used in making the piece to indicate its quality. Later, as the guilds were disbanded, individual felt-makers embedded their names and sometimes the name of the person commissioning the garment. Today, one often sees a more decorative use of once-meaningful motifs.

This piece, made in 2008 by Kececi Osman, a felt-maker in the Taurus Mountains near Konya, Turkey, has a form typical of the region in which it was made. The felted wool cloak has broadly rounded shoulders in natural wool white, with a pattern band down each side front in black, and an opening in the center front. The piece was commissioned for an exhibition by Mehmet Girgiç, a well-known felt carpet-maker in Istanbul.
As a collection or exhibition object, the kepenek tells a rich story about the development of felt making alongside the early domestication of animals in Central Asia, the daily life of nomadic herders and, most importantly, the role of textile architecture among nomadic communities, as this unfitted garment can serve as a portable, wearable tent.

This object was donated by Christine Martens. It is credited Gift of Christine Martens.

  • Parka (USA)
  • beluga whale gut, sinew, grass twine.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 22/7435.
  • 17.2012.8

Its dimensions are

H x W (approx.): 132.1 x 101.6 cm (52 x 40 in.)

Cite this object as

Kepenek (shepherd's Cloak); wool; H x W (approx.): 132.1 x 101.6 cm (52 x 40 in.); Gift of Christine Martens; 2009-33-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Fashioning Felt.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Kepenek (shepherd's Cloak) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=10 June 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>