Tue, Aug 22, 2017 - Page 13 News List

New breath of life for Afghan artisans

Ancient craftsmanship sees a renaissance in Kabul as NGO makes plans for revival of traditional culture across the Middle East

AFP, KABUL

“Eighty percent of our graduates have moved to their own business or are working for other business in the craft they chose,” said Nathan Stroupe, the director of the Turquoise Mountain foundation in Afghanistan.

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Some of their carpentry students have decorated palaces in London and the The United Arab Emirates, and jewelers have received commissions for New York Fashion Week.

“We have a business incubation process to support our students for three years,” Stroupe said.

“Some of the craftsmen had worked for the King,” he said, referring to [former Afghan monarch] Mohammed Zaher Shah, who was deposed in 1973.

But the process is still a race against time.

“For jali and Nuristani carving, we had teachers who were the last in Afghanistan, they passed away. If we were not able to preserve these arts, they would have been lost,” said Khalili.

“Already there are specific areas we lost — there are no copper makers left, no bronze makers.”

“Now we are documenting all those areas, we want to spread (knowledge) all over the country, the idea is to transfer it to the community ... if not it will be lost again,” he said.

After its successes in Afghanistan, the foundation is looking at war-torn Syria, which is also seeing ancient traditions threatened by an exodus of artisans.

“We have already met Syrian artisans in Jordan,” said Scott Riddle, a project director who will start work in September.

“Some people in Amman have already managed to set up small ateliers. We’re researching in the refugee camp in Azraq, in the desert in the country’s northeast.”

After Jordan, Turquoise Mountain is looking to work with refugee artisans from Libya.

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