The beginning

The beginning

A co-operative cloth sent to Freiburg in spring 2004.

The project emerged from a women’s project managed preciously by DAI in Laghmani. This project had offered courses in the cutting and sewing of clothing. I then suggested for the women to take up hand-embroidering again. Hand-embroidery is a traditional technique in Afghanistan, although it is not used in all the regions. (The women also practise felting, knitting or carpet weaving.) Thus, it was just by chance that the experiment was started in that particular village. For this, two women who were still proficient in the techniques of embroidering were employed as teachers.

Originally, women in Laghmani had known how to do embroidery, but in the course of 25 long years of war and being on the run repeatedly, they gave it up. They had different things to worry about.

I worked out written directions that were translated into Farsi in Freiburg, and I sent materials: Fabrics, threads, instructions. (Farsi, which is spoken by the women of Laghmani, is one of the two official languages in Afghanistan, a dialect of the Persian language, Dari, that is only spoken in Iran and Afghanistan. The other official language is Pashto.)

When the cloth displayed here was returned, I realised that a small miracle had happened. In spite of all the problems of transport and communication – different languages and cultural differences – the women had understood what I expected them to do. The piece had been embroidered in turn by many different women.

The very first patterns were done in kandaharidusi, embroidery from Kandahar, very delicately executed in satin stitch. Its name comes from the city of Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan, but it is used by all ethnic groups, all over the country. Traditionally, it decorates the front of men’s shirts as well as borders tshaderis, the full-body veil of Afghan women, with astererisks, rosettes and cross-stitch motives.