Hazara embroidery,
special “diamond” edition

Creative threads from Afghanistan to Europe

About Hazara embroidery – special edition Rhombus

The Afghan women of the ethnic group Hazara are well known for their excellent embroidery skills. They are well versed in a variety of different embroidery stitches, but for the second embroidery project of the DAI we were particularly interested in a special kind of satin stitch.
Unfortunately traditional embroidery skills are at risk from disappearing because women no longer embroider for their own use and regard hand embroidery as old-fashioned. The Hazara women in Sharak (near Herat in West Afghanistan) have revived their hand embroidery skills, and recovered the delicate movement of the needle they had not practiced for 25 years. For the embroidery project they stitched rectangles with silk threads, measuring 4 x 6 cm.

For this competition they embroidered rhombus shapes of 24 cm², also with silk threads. The rhombus is part of traditional patterns.

When the Afghan embroiderers have finished their work, it is an embroidery complete in itself, but not yet a finished piece of work. It is up to the European women to engage with the embroidery and to use it as a starting point for a work created by four hands. There were no restrictions with regard to shape, technique or interpretation other than a size limit of 40 x 40 cm for the finished piece. The call for entries also specified that the works would be displayed free-hanging in space. 65 works were shown in the exhibition, selected from 85 entries from 11 European countries.

The rhombus shape and its special significance were referred to in the works by the European artists. Knowing that the works would be presented free-hanging in space led to the creation of delicate and light pieces evocative of butterflies, dragonflies and dragons. The luxurious quality of the embroidery and exotic nature of the silk yarns inspired adornment and embellishment, but also mythical gardens of refined abundance. Exquisite ideas and inventions, surprises and sometimes a hidden wink transformed the show into a garden of magic carpets, an invitation to dream of a future where East and West embrace each other.

Dear Pascale
While I was working on this project, I heard more and more reports from Afghanistan, not because there was a sudden increase of them, but because I had become more perceptive with regards to the country. The embroidery made me feel connected to another individual and suddenly Afghanistan was no longer a far-away country. I love your engagement – and would be more than pleased to make a small contribution.

Kind regards
Sandra Germann-Struck
(work shown)