Turquoise Mountain is an Afghan nonprofit focused on regenerating urban areas and stimulating the ongoing renaissance of the country’s traditional craft industry. The organization has sold nearly $1,000,000 in traditional Afghan arts and crafts in Afghanistan and abroad. However, that is hardly the limit of what they do . . .
Since 2006, Turquoise Mountain has established the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, which comprises schools of woodworking, calligraphy & painting, ceramics, jewelry and gemcutting. Turquoise Mountain has rebuilt homes, laid infrastructure, preserved historic buildings and opened a school and clinic in Murad Khane, the artistic quarter of Kabul’s old city. Beyond the school and the clinic, their work in Murad Khane was comprehensive. When they began their work in Murad Khane, the streets were unpaved and historic buildings would collapse on a regular basis. Most inhabitants had no access to water or sewage provisions. Much of the neighborhood’s historic architecture was being systematically dismantled once great carved wooden screens were taken down and used as firewood. The city’s condition was in stark contrast to that of the merchant hub it had been for 2000 years, connecting the civilizations of Persia, India and Central Asia.
Turquoise Mountain began with a program to restore historic buildings and stabilize private homes. It also installed basic infrastructure by clearing rubbish, leveling and paving streets, and installing water and sewage infrastructure. The school and the clinic came after, along with the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.
The Turquoise Mountain has also maintained a business development program which seeks to expand commercial opportunities for the Afghan crafts industry. Their work links high quality products to client demand abroad, training craftsmen in business skills and increasing the overall quality of production. One of the principal aims is to recover and improve traditional craft skills, enabling Afghan craftspeople to earn a living in the global marketplace. The organization has a woodwork design and production studio that has completed commissions for the Afghan embassy in Tokyo, the library of the American University in Kabul, and other notable international institutions.
For us, Turquoise Mountain represents a thoughtful paradigm in how designers and activists can collaborate, even in the presence of ongoing conflict, to uplift communities and leverage a peaceful tradition into a peaceful future. Please find more at the links below.