Friday, January 7, 2011

Featured Traveler: Kian Sattar

One of the things that's so distinctive about steampunk in comparison to other genres and subcultures is the near-equal ratio of men to women, and yet costuming is often considered a woman's hobby! I know several male steampunks who not only make their own clothing, but also make extraordinarily creative and layered outfits- and now thanks to this blog I've met another: Kian Sattar

Kian as Abdulhaq, his Afghani scientist.
Kian told me that he had a bevvy of inspiration for his steampunk persona: Khan Bahadur Abdulhaq, (who is Chief Scientific Advisor to the Emir of Afghanistan) including The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Sterling, traditional Muslim and Indian garments, and his own varied heritage (Pashtun, Greek, Arab, and Turkish on his father's side and German, French-Swiss, Norweigian, and Dutch from his mother). He has several outfits that mix Central and Eastern Asian styles, such as kurta-pyjama suits and Nehru jackets with European aesthetics.

Miss K: Here is Kian's background about Abdulhaq:

Kian: My persona is that of Khan Bahadur Abdulhaq Al Kandahari, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Emir of Afghanistan. He is descended (on his father's side) from former zamindars (Mughal-era nobility) who fled back to their anscestral homeland of Afghanistan following the failed Second Indian Rebellion (mentioned in the back-story of The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Sterling). On his mother's side, he is descended from German patricians, who were forced to flee to America, following a failed coup in their fatherland, as well as being descended from the daughter of a Norwegian baron, and French-Swiss and Dutch adventurers.  Abdulhaq has recently perfected a cloaking device from airship-size vessels and has had them (at the behest of His Royal Majesty, Emir Mohammed Zahir Khan II) mass-produced and installed on the soon-to-be inducted Royal Afghani Airship Fleet.

Miss K: Why did you decided to integrate an Afghani look into your steampunk ensemble?
Kian: I chose to integrate and Afghani look into my ensemble for three main reasons: my desire to celebrate my Afghani heritage, the (at that point in time) non-existence of this type of steampunk aesthetic, and the nature of the present times being what they are (the War in Afghanistan painting a negative light over all things Afghani). I felt that presenting the interpretation that I did might lead to a more positive understanding of Afghani culture.

Miss K: How long did it take you to make/put together your ensemble?

Kian: My favorite part had to be seeing all the parts of the costume come together for the first time, in the mirror. I could see my persona staring back at me and felt the exhilaration of an escape to a world full of adventure.

Miss K: (I love this part too- there's nothing better than looking at the mirror and seeing someone else staring back at some point.) In your research, gathering, or construction did you find out something interesting about the culture?

Kian: I did discover that the sherwani, originated as the fusion of the kurta (an Afghani tunic-type piece of clothing brought to India by invading Afghans) and the frock coat, in the 18th Century, as a result of increasing contact with the British in the Indian sub-continent. This (in my opinion) makes it a truly steampunk piece of clothing, by incorporating the element of pastiche inherent to steampunk as a post-modern subculture. I also discovered a host of characters, from emirs to cut-throat adventurers who existed in the late 19th Century in Afghanistan. The Emirate of Afghanistan was the only Middle Eastern power to stand up to the British, three times at that (in the Anglo-Afghan Wars) and win. This fact would make for many interesting steampunk tales and characters, due the alternate history possibilities.  

Options are endless: Kian mixing an Indian jacket with a European waistcoat.
Miss K: What sort of reactions do you get wearing your ensemble out/to events?

Kian: Honestly, most people are a little surprised at first, quickly warming up to the idea, as it’s something that most people don’t run into or associate with steampunk (as most think ‘Neo-Victorian’ when they hear the word ‘steampunk’). I’ve gotten a lot of compliments for my original thinking. We even had a South Asian/Middle Eastern style steampunk even down in San Diego, where there were lots of Afghani-inspired costumes to be seen.

Miss K: Why would you recommend making an Afghani-inspired steampunk ensemble to people?

Kian: I would recommend it, as well as any style of steampunk ensemble that breaks out of the increasingly stringent bounds that are forming in the steampunk subculture, due to the need for ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking, in order to keep the sub-culture alive and ahead of the curve. Also, as my research showed me, there are infinite possibilities for thrilling steampunk adventures and characters in the Afgani line of being. I strongly encourage any and all to seriously look into the Afghani culture for inspiration for all things steampunk.

Amen, Kian. Thanks for showing us your fantastic and very educational outfits! (I had NO idea that's how the sherwani developed! I'm actually going to make one in the near future and that makes so much sense taking into account the garments that came before.)

If anyone has any questions about Kian's outfits, persona, or his rich heritage, he can be emailed here- or post them below.


  1. "I would recommend it, as well as any style of steampunk ensemble that breaks out of the increasingly stringent bounds that are forming in the steampunk subculture, due to the need for ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking, in order to keep the sub-culture alive and ahead of the curve."

    This. This, this, this. In the recent efforts to "define" steampunk, it's become increasingly difficult to present the culture as anything but Neo-Victorian.

    *salutes Kagashi and Kian*

  2. I needed to dress as an Afghan for something over here once, and ended up going for a coarse-woven black T-tunic with a waistcoat over the top. We only had a few pakols available, so I made do with a flat cap with the brim tucked inside for headwear.

    Short-notice costuming is a tricky thing for someone who's not well into the craft side of things, but it was kinda cool having people who'd lived in the country say "Hey, nice! You look like a tribal elder!"

    (Also, I'm very glad my city has an Afghan restaurant. They have some damned tasty dishes over there. Writing this comment already has me craving spiced lamb kebabs on a bed of sumac rice.)

  3. Hey Kian: costume is looking wonderful - I'm enjoying its evolution. Missed you Jan 13 at Chrononaut. I'm playing around with the boundaries too, considering a persona of an Englishwoman acculturated into East Indian culture. I hate it when the costume police show up and try to tell us how we're supposed to look. This is fantasy - not history! Let's have fun!

  4. Miss Kagashi, thanks for all your efforts towards giving a voice to the marginalized non-Eurocentric steampunkers out there. I think that this site might interest you and those who follow your blog: The guy who runs it is working on a steampunk novel set in the 12th Century, during the period of religious tolerance heralded by the Muslims and their rule over various territories, especially in regards to the Emirates of Sicily and Al-Andalus. It's truly been a pleasure working with you. Thanks again and keep on steaming!

    See ya on the flipside,

    Kian Sattar

  5. Awesome and inspiring. Thank you thank you thank you.