Pascale’s and Margreth's
Short version of the travel report October 2013, by Pascale, and further below by Margreth.
This trip could have been a great deal more relaxing for me, had it not been for a big challenge ahead: I was carrying 130 small textile works in my hand luggage, made by European women in response to the theme ‘Kitchen and kitchen utensils.’ The Afghan women’s task was to be to add to or finish these works in their own imaginative ways, embroidering an area roughly twice the size of the usual squares.
To introduce the project we first gave each participant a hand-out written in Farsi which was read out in the local dialect and then discussed in informal small groups. The hand-out explained the task, i.e. to continue the work a European woman had started on the subject of kitchens. I talked about the honour of participating in this collaborative project, and briefly explained the technical specifications.
Three days later, we met again. Each of the embroiderers presented her work in progress. I realized that many of them had not followed the brief and rather than taking the European women’s work as a starting point, had embroidered their own unrelated kitchen motifs. I tried to explain the project concept of continuing a work started by someone else.
Three days later when I came to collect the finished work I had no choice other than to accept the pieces as they were handed over and thank the embroiderers. I also apologized for the time pressure imposed upon them as a result from the project’s tight time schedule.
Summary: as mentioned, not all of the participants created embroideries to fit in with the European women’s compositions. Some of the women didn’t even care about the right way up of the work they were given. Some worked too fast and the quality of their work suffered as a result. I only came to realize after the four Id holidays were over that the mutual visits continued for some time after the end of the official holiday period. But, chapeau! All except one of the Afghan embroiderers managed to hand in their work on time. That’s impressive and shows they took the project seriously.
So now we have completed another stage of our experimental project that I had so often felt anxious about. But now I am confident that our group is achieving exciting results that reflect the clashes of two different cultures with very different realities and expectations.
It’s turning into a tradition: on this trip I again travelled in company. In 2011 it was Sarah, in 2012 Sabine (both have since travelled to Afghanistan on their own) and in 2013 Margreth joined me after the Id celebrations in Kabul. I had a special task for her – more about that to follow.
Pascale, January 2014
In October 2013 a special wish of mine came true – I was invited to accompany Pascale to Afghanistan. My task was to teach the women and girls how to knit, so they would be able to protect themselves better from the cold winter weather.
On my first visit to the villages I presented my project to the women and girls while Pascale was handing out the works for the kitchen competition. Women and girls who were not involved in the embroidery project were also welcome to join. I had brought with me in my luggage 4 kg of donated knitting needles and samples of socks, simple slippers, wrist cuffs and leg warmers.
Knit one – purl one: ‘rost’ – ‘tschap’ in Dari, I was learning fast. Perfect communication! Interestingly enough, it was particularly the younger generation who took to the knitting with a lot of enthusiasm. I gave the knitters needles, wool and the samples they had started to take with them so they could continue to work at home. What a surprise! At the third and last meeting I saw that nearly all of them had continued with their samples, some had already knitted enough for a wrist cuff. Pascale’s ‘warming’ idea had been accepted.
Sometimes I was rushed off my feet as everybody wanted my attention and help immediately and at the same time. The girls were highly ambitious, striving to do their very best and encouraging each other. Knitting instructions, annotated by Khaled in Persian, helped with the communication.
Will the enthusiasm last? I wonder how the work is progressing. A seed has been sown and must now be nurtured to grow.
The encounter left me feeling richly rewarded and grateful upon my return to Germany. Among supplies of knitting needles and colourful wool I am dreaming ….Afghanistan 20… a wish to come true – Inshallah! Taschakor’ – Hobelesch-nees, I am looking forward to the next meeting.
Margreth, December 2013