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Talismanic Kaftan

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Ph.D.

Handmade Garments with Digital Print on Cotton Sateen and Chiffon; Conductive Thread, LED Neopixels and Micro Controller.

30" w x 44" h x 5" d (Dress size 6/8)

Not For Sale; Accepts Commissions

New York, New York


Performance Still: "NY: Struggle for Space," New York City; Photo Credit: Alia Shenasa


The "Talismanic Kaftan" is based on my research of cloth and garments as protective devices in Middle Eastern culture. For this piece, I have constructed a “Smart textile” that speaks to the viewer, rather than the wearer: if the viewer gets too close, the colors change and blink. They hold a steady light in green when the viewer maintains a safe distance. The use of light here is also a reference to Divine protection and enlightenment. Although this piece was constructed before the 2020 pandemic, the concept of social distancing has added additional challenges to establishing individual comfort levels with physical interaction, making it that much more important to communicate with visual symbols.


The digital print on the kaftan is based on a “Khamsa,” a talismanic symbol warding off evil. The undergown contains verses by Jalaluddin Rūmī, a twelfth century poet whose poetry was often reproduced in other media. The poem is translated to English, but I have kept the Persian word Khamūsh: in Rūmī’s medieval poems this means “silence” and is used by Rūmī to indicate the end of his ecstatic rantings; in contemporary vernacular, this means “to turn off,” i.e. lights. Essentially, the garment in this context functions as psycho-spiritual armor.

Detail of Talismanic Kaftan, a dress by Nazani
Talismanic Kaftan, a dress by Nazani
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