When I first arrived in Kabul eight years ago to embark upon my new adventure working with a foundation I truly admired, I wondered how anyone could live in such an environment. Looking out of the car window I saw tanks on each corner, trucks with machine guns roaming the streets and barbed wire fortresses. Then I looked further and saw the children running to school, the bustling market, the tranquility outside the beautifully tiled mosques. And as the snow-capped mountains sparkled and the sun shone, I felt excited that I would be helping to restore the community by reviving its culture and traditions.
The Turquoise Mountain Foundation has worked to revive traditional arts and crafts since it was established in 2006. Located in Murad Khane, in the old part of Kabul, the area was a run-down slum where heroin addiction was rife and employment opportunities were almost non-existent. The foundation has made a huge change in the quality of life for the residents there since it was set up. They have been able to hire over 400 local men a day, train them with restoration and construction skills and employ them to build a cultural, educational and economic hub. The community now has a primary school, a health clinic, a literacy centre with a library and an institute of Afghan arts and architecture that teaches English and Business skills.
In awe of what Turquoise Mountain had achieved, I was excited to start working with the first group of employed women graduates who had joined the workshop to produce unique jewellery inspired by Ancient Afghan and Turkman design.
I have designed dozens of collections with Turquoise Mountain since and with each, I have felt it essential to maintain a consciousness sense of Afghan traditions. I draw heavily on Ancient influences and use locally-sourced-stones and materials. I am delighted that these designs are now being sold internationally, as are the artisans who take great pride in knowing that their special piece which embodies the spirit and tradition of their country is being enjoyed all over the world.
Eight years on I am still exhilarated each time I sit down with the craftsmen and women to create a new collection. It is always so wonderful to see the pride they have in their work and to hear what a help it is for them to be able to contribute to their family’s income. It’s so inspiring to see where the money raised, in part by sale of the jewellery collections, has brought about change.
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