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MATERIAL MATTERS

Extended Family

Extended Family
The tradition of camels in Mongolia

毛足が長く、ふわっと軽さがありながら
艶やかな色気のあるベビーキャメル。
その原毛となるラクダと生産者である遊牧民を
たずねてモンゴルのゴビ砂漠へ。
彼らにとってのラクダという存在は、
家畜と飼い主のような単純なものではなく、
守り、受け継いでいかなくてはならない
大切な民族文化のひとつでした。

Creative Direction by kontakt
Photography, Cinematography and Video Editing by Atsuki Ito
Sound Operation by Toru Kemori
Text by Mikiya Matsushita (kontakt)
Translation by Joyce Lam

モンゴルの首都ウランバートルからランドクルーザーに16時間揺られ、たどり着いたのはゴビ砂漠。モンゴル語で「草がまばらに生えた砂漠」がさすように、ラクダの餌となる牧草が豊富で、冬には気温が氷点下、夏は40度を超える寒暖差の大きい地域。農作物が育たない土地柄であったことから、遊牧民たちはラクダの肉やミルクを食料とし、ラクダの毛を売りながら生活を営むようになりました。

ラクダの毛は寒暖差から身を守るために発達し、保温性や放湿性は時にカシミヤさえを上回ります。AURALEEが使うベビーキャメルは、キャメルの中でも1頭につき一度しか採れない、生後半年までの子供の毛を集めたもの。大人の毛よりも繊維が細く、柔らかい肌触りの稀少な原毛は、生地になった時にも軽くてあたたかいのが特徴です。

デザイナーの岩井はベビーキャメルについて、「実用的な部分だけではなく、毛足が長くて柔らかいのに艶とハリがある。他の獣毛には出せない素材としての色気があるんです。こうしてモンゴルに来るのは、生産者と顔を合わせて話をすることで、その特別さを身を持って感じ、より良いものづくりに活かすため。彼らと信頼関係を築き、数の限られた原毛をこれからも分けてもらえるようお願いするためです」と話します。

ゴビ砂漠に近い人口100人程度の小さな村に定住しながら、遊牧民たちと協力してラクダを育てる元村長のエルデネ・べレグさん。この地域では誰よりもラクダに詳しい彼はチーズや馬乳酒、伝統的な現地の挨拶である嗅ぎ煙草でわたしたちを迎え入れ、話を聞かせてくれました。

「冬のラクダに乗ったことありますか?こぶが暖かくてまるでストーブに当たってるみたいなんです」

「わたしたちにとっての豊かさは、家族と自分が健康でいられることです。ラクダはとても優しく臆病な動物。わたしたちが彼らに対して、優しく接していればラクダもわたしたちに多くのものを与えてくれます。栄養満点のミルクや肉、そしてあたたかく丈夫な毛。ラクダに愛を持って接して、たくさんの恩恵を受け取ることで、わたしたちは今日も豊かな生活を送ることができるのです」

旅の最中、現地で出会った人たちが、牧草地に座り込み、目を合わせて話をする光景に何度も出会いました。彼らは会社の上司と部下であったり、取引相手だったりと、いわば仕事での間柄。それにも関わらず、リラックスしながら話に没頭するさまはまるで家族のよう。そこには作り手や消費者といった立場の差はなく、フラットな人と人の繋がりだけがあります。それはAURALEEが目指すコミュニティのあり方、その答えのひとつになり得る象徴的な光景でした。

愛を持ってラクダと向き合い、親密な人と人の繋がりを介して、その宝物のような繊維のバトンを繋ぐ。わたしたちは、ベビーキャメルの原毛を「分け与えて」もらっています。話の最後、エルデネさんは、あらためてラクダとの関係性、彼らが代々受け継いできた想いについて語りました。

Extended Family

Extended Family
The tradition of camels in Mongolia

Baby camels with long, furry legs, exuding an ethereal allure and lightness. We travelled to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to visit the camels who provide raw wool and their nomadic herders. To them, camels signify more than a conventional livestock-owner relationship; it is a cherished embodiment of their cultural heritage that must be protected and passed down.

Creative Direction by kontakt
Photography, Cinematography and Video Editing by Atsuki Ito
Sound Operation by Toru Kemori
Text by Mikiya Matsushita (kontakt)
Translation by Joyce Lam

After a 16-hour journey in a Land Cruiser from Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, we arrived at the Gobi Desert. As the Mongolian name suggests—‘the desert where grass sparsely grows’—it provides abundant fodder for camels, and it is a region that experiences extreme temperature variations, plummeting to sub-zero temperatures in the winter and soaring above 40 degrees in the summer. Due to the unsuitability of the land for crop cultivation, nomadic herders have become dependent on camel meat and milk for sustenance, while earning a livelihood by selling camel wool.

Camel hair has evolved to protect their bodies from extreme temperature fluctuations, and its insulation and moisture-wicking properties can even rival cashmere at times. Auralee uses baby camel wool, collected from camels only once, from their birth up to their first six months of life. This rare raw wool boasts finer fibres and softer textures compared to adult camel wool, resulting in a lightweight yet exceptionally warm fabric.

Iwai, the designer of Auralee, comments on baby camel wool: ‘It’s not just about practicality; the long, soft wool also possesses sheen and resilience. It exudes a seductive allure that other animal wools cannot replicate. Meeting and conversing with the producers here in Mongolia helps me to truly appreciate its uniqueness and use this understanding to create something even better. It’s about establishing trust with them and asking for their continued sharing of this limited raw wool with us in the future.’

Former village chief Erdene-beleg, who settled in a small village with a population of around 100 people near the Gobi Desert, collaborates with nomadic herders to raise camels. He is the most knowledgeable man about camels in the region and welcomed us with cheese, fermented mare milk, and a traditional local greeting involving sniffing tobacco while sharing his stories with us.

‘Have you ever ridden a camel in the winter before? The hump is so warm; it feels like you are sitting next to a stove.’

‘For us, richness is for our family and ourselves to be healthy. Camels are extremely gentle and timid animals. If we treat them with kindness, they will bestow many gifts upon us, such as nutritious milk, meat, and warm, sturdy wool. By approaching camels with love and receiving their many blessings, we are able to lead an abundant life every day.’

During the journey, we repeatedly encountered scenes where the locals we met would all sit in the pastures, engaging in conversation, eye to eye. They could be likened to pairs of supervisors and subordinates in a company, or agents and clients; essentially functioning as business partners. However, despite this, their relaxed and engrossed conversations resembled family interactions. There was no distinction between the roles of producers and consumers, but only an equal connection between people. It was a symbolic sight that reflects the type of community that Auralee is striving to create.

To approach the camels with love and pass on the baton of their precious fibres through intimate human connections. We are being ‘given’ the raw wool of baby camels. At the end of our conversation, Erdene spoke once again about their relationship with the camels and the sentiments they have inherited through generations.

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