We arrived in Afghanistan in 2013 expecting to find the country we were so used to seeing on the news: arid landscapes, soldier lined streets, extreme poverty. We left three years later with a very different understanding of the country.
In ateliers across Afghanistan - from mountain villages, to basements off bustling urban bazaars - we came to meet artisans crafting modern day heirlooms, steeped in history and rich in character.
Yet in Afghanistan there is neither the money, nor the demand for high end craft. Neglected, unable to sustain their businesses, many artisans have downed their tools, and with them, their ancestral skills too.
This situation is not unique to Afghanistan. Look to Syria and Mali, Yemen and Iraq - craftsmanship is in the same state of peril.
ISHKAR is our attempt at a solution.
We want to ensure craftsmanship in war-torn countries does not only survive; it thrives. Our approach is four-fold:
The vast majority of our products are purchased through local NGOs, ensuring a proportion of the money we invest is recycled back into development projects ranging from providing craftsmen with educational opportunities, right through to supporting local schools and healthcare clinics.
CREATING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES
We have chosen to work only with craftsmen in war zones because they have been cut off from the international market. By providing fair wages, we are committed to helping craftsmen grow their businesses despite challenging economic environments.
With so few positive news stories reaching international headlines about countries undergoing war, we believe it has never been more important to share stories and products with the power to inform, surprise and inspire.
Made slow to live long
All over the world, craftsmen are coming under threat from mass production. In countries experiencing conflict this threat is all the more acute. Through ISHKAR we want to create a sanctuary for craftsmanship in its purest form: valuing slow production over fast, the human hand over the machine, natural materials over the synthetic.
ANCESTRAL SKILLS, MODERN DESIGN
All too often age-old craftsmanship is combined with age-old design. We believe craftsmanship is at its best when guided by contemporary design and imagination. That’s why many of the products we sell are the result of collaborations between top international designers and craftsmen on the ground.