Most of what we hear about Afghanistan is heartbreaking. Particularly dire are the conditions endured by women and children—life expectancy for Afghani women is 44, while 26 percent of children die before their fifth birthdays. Therefore we would like to put the spotlight on a more empowering aspect of Afghani female life –namely, the age-old crafts tradition of making of beautiful hand-woven wool pile carpets.
Arzu Studio —arzu means “hope” in Dari, the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan—is a non-profit organization that empowers these women, who are often the sole support for their extended families, by employing them as carpet weavers. Arzu also provides access to education and healthcare for both them and their children. Since its founding in 2004, Arzu has gone from working with 30 weavers to employing over 1,000—and providing social benefits to more than 3,500 people.
All profits from the rugs go back to support the weavers and Arzu’s programs in Afghanistan. Along with the education and healthcare benefits for the women and their familes, says Angela Attento, Arzu’s creative and technical director, this includes paying each weaver “a fair market rate for the rug she is weaving plus an additional 50 percent cash bonus and paying for rug-making materials so the weaver does not go into debt.”
The rugs produced by Arzu’s skilled weavers, who typically learn the craft from their mothers and grandmothers, are stunning. The Hope rug (photo 3 and 4), part of Arzu’s Tribal collection, was inspired by the Pazyryk rug, which dates from 500 B.C. and is the oldest pile rug in the world. Named as a testament to the resilience of the extraordinary women who make it, Hope incorporates traditional motifs such as stylized lotus buds and horses. We’re offering it in two options: a large brown version and a smaller blue version.
We’re also offering two of Arzu’s more contemporary styles: Blend (photo 2), an asymmetrical, abstract floral and leaf pattern in blue on a beige background; and Wellness III (photo 1), which features an oversize, stylized blue flower on a beige background.