Artisans are invaluable to the culture as they pass on knowledge of traditional arts and crafts that are unique to their communities. The spaces where artistic and cultural activities take place are often the pulse points of communities. At best, they are places where artists, tradition bearers and cultural workers are in the driver’s seat. These spaces can stimulate civic engagement and directly and indirectly influence economic conditions. Unfortunately, in the rapidly changing globalized world, the preservation of these craft values becomes a challenge as many artisans do not have enough opportunities to improve the quality of life.
This is where we need companies that realize the importance of preserving the craftsmanship that exists in different communities, especially those that are marginalized. Artisan Links is one of those socially responsible and fair trade companies offering products that contribute to a sustainable future. It is the only guaranteed member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in Pakistan. Each of their products is intricately crafted by their team of all-female artisans, made up of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and local artisans existing in the country. Artisan Links has expanded this craft globally by collaborating with a major fashion house – Chloe, among others.
Since its inception in Pakistan, the organization’s motto has been to empower women from marginalized communities by helping them gain economic security and encouraging them to harness their artistic expertise. By translating traditional embroidery techniques into contemporary designs, they have developed apparel, home furnishings, gifts, accessories and more. The company believes in the importance of cultural preservation, thus keeping complex embroidery techniques – Kandahari, Pukta-Dozi, Tarshumar, Zangeera-Dozi and Graph-Dozi – alive in their pieces.
It remains the only organization that continues to work with Afghan women both in Pakistan and in the border regions of Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. The organization strongly believes in giving affected women work rather than one-time donations in order to provide them with ongoing financial independence and support.
“We are committed to ensuring that we train, help with product development and market the products made by these amazing women, playing a humble role in providing a source of income for women who in most cases are the only source income for their family. It is an honor for our work to be seen on some of the most coveted catwalks and shelves in the world. said Tahira Afridi, director of Artisan Links, about it.
The organization is also the official social enterprise partner of MADE51, a global brand created by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which connects refugee artisans with local social enterprises to design, manufacture and market decorations and home accessories around the world. Chloé – a French luxury brand known for its ethical craftsmanship and free-spirited femininity, engages refugee women to produce components that are incorporated into their products. Starting with their Spring/Summer 2022 collection, the Chloé x MADE51 collaboration incorporates the craftsmanship of Afghan refugee women into Chloé’s range of accessories, including their signature Marcie and Woodie handbags.
This collaboration is a colossal feat that showcases the artistic talents of these women around the world and is an excellent springboard to welcome new collaborations from all over the world. Artisan Links has provided employment, recognition and financial stability to the most talented Afghan women, putting them on the map in hopes of a brighter future for them.
Their products have also been exhibited in the various museum shops such as the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the Western Australian Museum, the Queensland Museum, the Victoria Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Field Museum stores, the Palmer Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Hammond Museum. and British Museum. Prior to the pandemic, Artisan Links exhibited at the NEW York International Gift Show, Dallas Gift Show, Berlin Import Shop and Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Thanks to MADE51, these products have also presented at Ambiente, Frankfurt and Maison de Objet.
Although it is difficult to quantify the enormous value – both in techniques and traditions – of a community of artisans, we know that once lost it becomes very difficult to recover it. A community’s ability to generate a livelihood through its craft traditions generates far more pride and meaning than the all-too-common rural dispersal into crowded, polluted urban centers for daily wages. It is all the more important to preserve their craft as cultural diversity makes us richer and more resilient both in our ability to express ourselves and to collaborate meaningfully with others.
– A. Jafri