Afghanistan has a centuries-long tradition of weaving and rug-making, much of it created by women artisans who handcraft their intricate designs. Home goods company The Citizenry is tapping into that heritage while providing an outlet for women artisans in the South-Central Asian nation with its new The Afghanistan Project line.
The collection features rugs handwoven by women artisans who have been affected by political unrest in their country.
“We always knew we wanted to create an unmatched collection of rugs with the master weavers there, but when the political shift happened, we became even more inspired by the brave women determined to preserve this ancient craft,” said Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley, co-founders, The Citizenry.
Women in Afghanistan are limited in everything from education to employment, so The Afghanistan Project focuses on offering those women a sense of purpose and agency through weaving. And as political tensions increase in the country, the ability to produce and distribute those rugs has grown trickier.
“During the course of this project, the shipping lanes and flights became greatly restricted,” Nance and Bentley said. “The weavers lost access to the worldwide markets, but we remained committed to the women and their work. Our team worked with partners in Afghanistan and neighboring countries for a year to reimagine and dust off old paths that hadn’t been used in years to find innovative ways to get these rugs on the water.”
“These all-natural processes and materials tend to be more sustainable, benefiting the weavers who work with them and the planet,” Nance and Bentley said.
Each rug takes around six months to complete, with the artisans hand-knotting 80 knots per square inch. The line features traditional patterns with triangles, arrows and other shapes.
“The rug patterns and motifs are native to the region and have been passed down for generations,” Nance and Bentley said. “Each one is incredibly detailed, with meticulous precision and complexity, which makes them special.”
Nance and Bentley said the plan is to build a long-term relationship with this artisan community to continue to allow women in Afghanistan to not only practice their craft, but also support themselves and gain some sense of independence.
“We are proud to play a small part in empowering these communities to help support these women who have already persevered against all odds,” Nance and Bentley said. “All over the country, you will find these brave women weaving on looms in their very own homes, carrying on this tradition and creating beautiful works of art.”