Thursday, 4 March 2010

Prisoner of War Work

There is always something poignant about people's lives cut short or catapulted out of orbit by the forces of War. For those taken captive by the opposing side, there were, and perhaps still are, no guarantees. In times of food shortages and rationing, it is the captors who will be fed. The only control that can be exerted, as in conditions of dire poverty, is to create something with one's own hands to barter for food, or to barter for something that could be bartered for food. Most English museums will have some straw or bone work work article made by a Napoleonic prisoner of war. Here is a Spinning Jenny made from bone by one such prisoner.
From later wars there are recycled shell and bullet cases. This beaded bag auctioned recently by Bonham's was made by a Turkish prisoner of war in 1919. Did some charitable organisation donate the beads? And what about the pattern? Its design looks Ottoman, but what about the inscription? Would the Turkish prisoner understand what was being beaded? Could it be that one should read Turkish Prisoner as Prisoner of the Turks? Could it have been made by an English speaking prisoner? And who would have exchanged food or cigarettes for this purse?

1 comment:

  1. I so enjoy reading your blog - esp the educational aspects of it. I love seeing the history of the needlework you post, and it resonates so much as we just came back from a 2 yr stay in Europe. You make me feel at "home" again. :-)