A beautiful example of a pendant cross, early 20th century, solid high grade silver. Photo credit: Kashgar.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church is one of the oldest in Christendom. It is believed by Ethiopians to date to at least the 1st century, within memory of the living Christ, when Philip the Evangelist, one of seven Deacons of the new Christian Church, preached to and converted an Ethiopian official in the court of Queen Candace (New Testament Acts 8:26-38). In 328 AD Saint Frumentius was officially made first Bishop of Aksum, who in turn baptised King Ezana, and so the Ethiopian state church was officially born.
The Ethiopian church flourished with little outside contact until the early fifteenth century. There then occurred two centuries of European contact, bringing with it inevitable conflict, followed by another two centuries of isolation. For the larger part of its 1600-year-old history, the Ethiopian Orthodox church has proceeded on its own way, without significant influence from the outside world.
It is because of this isolation that Ethiopian Christianity has retained much of its early symbolism and the raw simplicity of the very earliest Christian peoples. One of the oldest symbols adopted by the Church, the cross, retains its purest form in Ethiopia, where it can be found in three principal forms: the processional cross, hand cross and the pendant cross.
Processional crosses are treasured by Ethiopian monasteries and are generally brought out on feast days during processionals through towns and villages. Photo credit: Kashgar
Ethiopian processional crosses are huge and elaborate pieces of cast white metal strap and latticework, attached to the tops of staffs on feast days and carried at the heads of parades through towns and villages, then back to the churches that usually house them. Likewise, priests carry hand crosses during many religious ceremonies. They usually include the latticework form as well as a square at the base, traditionally believed to represent the Ark of the Covenant. Pendant crosses are the commonest form found in Ethiopia, since they are received at baptism and worn around the neck as their owner’s most prized possession, a talisman and symbol of faith combined.
Elaborate, stylised design characterises most hand and processional crosses today. But when it comes to personal adornment, some cross pendants are breathtakingly simple, particularly those made prior to the 20th century. This is partially because they were made in small village communities and reflected the skills of local metalsmiths. But it is also because the crosses were often created from metals that were readily available. In the past a favoured material was the Maria Theresa Thaler. With a regulated silver content of .833, a conveniently round shape and standard thickness, jewellers did not have to work hard to form a cross shape, and indeed the most sought after Ethiopian crosses today still bear the imprint of the original coins.
An example of a pendant cross cut straight from a Maria Theresa Thaler. Early 20th century, northern Ethiopia. Photo credit: Kashgar
Linda has a Honours degree in Marine Biology and a PhD in Ecology from the University of NSW, Australia. She has travelled extensively and is a passionate writer on subjects as diverse as the role played by women throughout history, tribal communities and their customs, symbology and ethnology, talismans and their history. Occasionally she also writes about her travel experiences, her new life on a 25 acres in the Northern Rivers region of northern Australia and her black miniature poodle Phoenix. She is currently writing her first book on talismans.
In 1989 my father Bernard packed in his house painting business and set off for two years on a backpacking trek to the remotest corners of the world. When he finally arrived in the oasis city of Kashgar, China, he was so impressed with its history that he decided to start a new life collecting and selling exotic goods from all over the world. For 2000 years the legendary city of Kashgar was a melting pot of ideas and a key trading post on the historic Silk Road. It was this unique combination of philosophy and trade that my father wanted to recreate at home.
Starting in markets in 1991, he opened his first store in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1994. I gave up my own career as a government scientist to join him in 2000 and soon convinced my partner Ian to join us in what was to become the Family Business.
Today our version of Kashgar stocks a hugely diverse range of furniture, rugs, textiles, antiques, handicrafts and jewellery sourced from over twenty different countries including India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Thailand, Burma, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Our collection includes contemporary and tribal silver and gold jewellery, a unique range of headhunting curios, antique Buddhist relics and a collection of one-off necklaces, earrings and bracelets that I design and create myself using the beads and jewellery making techniques of ethnic minorities from around the globe.
Kashgar is a philosophy as well as a store. We are committed to supporting traditional artisans and small village communities by selling authentic handcrafted goods which are personally collected by us. By supporting traditional methods of design and production we hope to encourage local cottage industries which have a low impact on the environment and help ethnic minorities maintain their self-sufficiency into the 21st Century. We are particularly committed to assisting women around the world and to this end have worked with several organisations including the Hua Bin Women's Union of Vietnam, the East Timorese Women's Association and Tikondane in Zambia. Time honoured means of craftsmanship and traditional ways of life are disappearing as people all over the world give up their identity in favour of jeans and T-shirts. We see our trade as a means of staving off the inevitable encroachment of the 21st century, assisting communities to decide for themselves which parts of the western world they wish to incorporate (medicine, education) and which they wish to reject (prostitution, drug production, begging and servitude to warlords). We encourage our customers to think of the handicrafts and artifacts they buy from us as an investment: a piece of history and a way of life that may soon be gone forever.
Kashgar has recently closed its retail outlet and gone completely online.
In the past our pieces appeared in many movies including The Hobbit, Mission Impossible 2, Queen of the Damned, Scooby Doo, Moulin Rouge and Wolverine, and in many televisions series, as well as in plays, commercials and exhibitions. We've found special pieces for individual customers as well as for film sets, event management companies, hotels, businesses, consulates and embassies. The uniqueness of our stock means that we are also very appealing to interior and fashion designers with a taste for the exotic.
There is something for everyone at Kashgar - collectors, the curious, those looking for a special present or for something unique to adorn the home. Most of our items are one-off specialties; other pieces we only stock in small quantities so as to continuously offer a wide and ever-changing range of interesting products. We are also packed with ideas for decorating home and work premises that will challenge your established concepts of design and storage.
Please enjoy - Linda Heaphy
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