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2000/114/1 Tent strut holders (ok bash) (pair), supplementary weft, wool, made and used by the Ersari Turkmen people, northern Afghanistan, 1900-1950. Click to enlarge.

Pair of tent strut holders (ok bash) by Ersari People

This pair of ok bash reflects the traditional tribal nomadic lifestyle and the superb weaving skills of the Ersari Turkmen people of Central Asia. The Turkmen lived throughout an area between the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, which is roughly the same as present day Turkmenistan. There are a number of subdivisions of the Turkmen, including the Tekke, Yomut, Chodor, Salor and Ersari peoples. Many of the Ersari Turkmen, who made these bags, migrated further towards the south, into northern …


Object No.


Object Statement

Tent strut holders (ok bash) (pair), supplementary weft, wool, made and used by the Ersari Turkmen people, northern Afghanistan, 1900-1950

Physical Description

A pair of Ersari Turkmen tent strut holders (ok bash). These are cylindrical bags with pointed bases formed by folding the approximately square flatwoven fabric weftways and seaming down the lower half of the long side, leaving the upper part of the bag open. One selvedge thus forms the upper edge of the bag. The pointed base has been formed by means of four darts.

The fabric is of wool with a plain weave red ground, densely patterned with geometric motifs in discontinuous supplementary weft brocading. The main repeating motif is a symmetrical rams horn type worked in black and two shades of red. These are set within strong yellow diagonal outlines that form a lattice pattern of large and small diamonds. Small white cotton accents highlight the rams horn motifs, the yellow diamond shapes and the borders, with additional yellow and purple cotton highlights in the borders.

A long multi-strand square-plaited cord with decorative tassels is attached to each top corner for tying the ok bash in place; one cord is black and red the other green and tan. Shorter and finer red and black tasselled square-plaited cords are attached to the base as decoration, one at the pointed tip and one at the top of each of the four base darts.


No marks



690 mm


80 mm



The Ersari are a subgroup of the Turkmen tribes, the traditionally nomadic peoples who inhabited western Turkestan, now Turkmenistan.

Colour is the main feature of Turkmen rugs and trappings, which are predominantly in different shades of red with dark blue and white as secondary colours and brown to outline some of the motifs. Yellow and blue green are used in very much smaller quantities. The red used by Ersari Turkmen is a rust red.
Turkmen patterns are primarily geometric, with a main motif that repeats across the field of the rug or bag, and often with a minor motif in the spaces between. Repeating patterns were easier to memorise in an oral culture; the women relied on their memories for all the motifs and patterns used in their carpets and trappings. The group's patterns were held by the older women of the household, who also taught and supervised the younger women's weavings.

The main motif with its opposing curling hooks is of the rams horn type; this particular form is called gotshak or ram's star and is often found in Turkmen weavings. The rams horn is a very ancient motif whose form derives from the importance of sheep in the nomadic economy. It is found in textiles throughout Central Asia, appearing in many different but always recognisable forms.

Turkmen textiles are the work of women, who share the work between them. The herds from which their wool comes are cared for by the men, who also do the shearing. Most weavers used only wool from their own family flock, with the occasional addition of silk and/or cotton from the nearby town bazaars. Horizontal looms were set up within the family tent and the weaving usually took place during the few months after the spring shearing. Traditionally all Turkmen weavers used handspun wool for both warp and weft, although some tribes added goat hair to give strength to the warps, especially the selvedges.

These tent strut holders were woven and patterned in discontinuous supplementary weft brocading, called besh kashta by the Turkmen. Besh kashta was used by the Ersari in a greater variety of pieces than any of the other Turkmen tribes. The use of white cotton for design details, in the way it is used in these bags, is also more common in Ersari weavings.

These tent strut holders were made between 1900-1950.



From the personal collection of the donors, Cito (Ray Bowers) and Lyn (Marylyn Marion) Cessna, who lived and worked in Afghanistan during the 1960s and early 1980s. The ok bash were collected by them in Afghanistan during that period.

Ok bash or tent strut holders are long pointed bags woven in pairs as covers to place over the ends of the bundled tent struts in the wedding procession as well as for regular migrations. These poles are carried by the pack-animals and protected the slender timbers as well as the animals' eyes when walking in procession.


Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Cito and Lyn Cessna, 2000

Acquisition Date

16 October 2000

Cite this Object


Pair of tent strut holders (ok bash) by Ersari People 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 September 2022, <>


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