This ground breaking self-help project is not only helping Afghani women to fight their way out of poverty but is inspiring needle crafters around the Europe. Set up by the DAI (Deutsch-Afghanische Initiative, German Afghan Initiative) the project asks women in the village of Laghmani, north of Kabul embroider 8 x 8 cm squares which are then sold to textile artists in the Western world to incorporate into their work. This results in the combination of both techniques and cultures.
The embroidered squares are very well suited for combining with patchwork, quilt, embroidery [hand or machine], weave or felting techniques, where they can be set as eyecatchers. The textile artist then uses the square as inspiration for the rest of the piece of work, some have chosen to make the square a feature of the work, and others have seamlessly incorporated it into their design.
So where did the idea for this project come from you may be wondering? The DAI set up a centre for women in Laghmani in 2003 where they offered literacy courses and tailoring courses as a means of helping the women to become self-supporting. At the end of that project Pascale Goldenberg, the originator of the project, started to focus on hand embroidery. The original plan was to help the women set up a sales network within their own country to help them generate an income from their embroidery. This proved to be difficult in the current situation, particularly as many of the women are not allowed leave their village, or in some cases their home. So the solution was to sell the squares in Europe.
In 2008 Pascale asked people to incorporate these embroidered squares into works that could be displayed on a European tour to help raise the profile of the project. There are 14 countries participating in the tour, each having been set a specific theme: tulips for Holland, mountains for Austria, circles for Germany, birds for France, fruit for Italy, winter for Latvia, lace for Belgium, night sky for Denmark, pomegranates for Spain, doves for Czech Republic, crosses for Switzerland, red/white/blue for Luxemburg, fish for Hungary and teapots/vessels for the United Kingdom.
The resulting works are now touring around Europe giving people the opportunity to admire these breathtaking works up close, and purchase postcards of the works and if you are quick you can buy one of the few remaining embroidered squares and create a piece of your own. The exhibition kicked off at the recent Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch event in the NEC and proved to be very popular, with people queuing to buy their own Afghani embroidered square after they had finished admiring 220 pieces on display.
The tour will be exhibiting at the following events:
• 13 - 16 May 2010 - 4th International Quilt Festival, Wilwerwitz Luxembourg
• 19 - 20 June 2010 - Textile Art, Berlin Germany
• 1 September - 3 October 2010 - Dionysiosmarkt, Salzwedel, Germany
• 25 February - 13 March 2011 Italy - also going to Italy this year
• 19 - 22 May 2011 - Quilt en Sud, Grand Festival of Patchwork and Textile Art, Saint Jean de Luz,[Basque Coast], France
• 17 - 20 May 2012 - Patchworktage, Patchwork Guild, Dortmund Germany
The majority of the UK entries are being displayed at the following ICHF shows:
• Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts: Westpoint Centre, Exeter 23-26 September 2010
• Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts: The Brighton Centre 11-13 February 2011
• Creative Stitches: SECC Glasgow 3-6 March 2011
• Fashion Embroidery & Stitch: NEC Birmingham 24-27 March 2011
•Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts: Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool 22-24 April OR 6-8 May 2011.
More information can be found on www.ichf.co.uk regarding these shows.
To find out more about the Afghanistan Inspiration project please visit www.oneearthtextiles.co.uk for the UK site or http://www.deutsch-afghanische-initiative.de/ for the original German site (the wonder that is Google toolbar will translate it to English for you).