The Once and Future Woman

The terrific Fiber Nation podcast that aired last week, featuring Linda Ligon’s stories about our authors and their work, prompted questions about Kandahar Treasure and Multicolores. These are two women’s craft cooperatives Linda mentioned in the podcast, and the focus of two of our books: Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future and Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation.

“How are the women artisans doing?” you queried. “Are they still embroidering in Afghanistan? Rug hooking in Guatemala?” Here’s the update, directly from the authors. You’ll be pleased—and inspired.

once and future woman
L to R: Authors Rangina Hamidi, Mary Littrell, Mary Anne Wise, and Cheryl Conway-Daly.

Commodities and Futures

Author Mary Littrell wrote to us a few months ago that Kandahar Treasure (KT) now supports about 50 women who have regular embroidery work. The “Eight Embroidering Daughters,” whose story was one of several featured in Embroidering within Boundaries, now work on the orders from Ibu–a US-based shop that offers handcrafted clothing and accessories from over a hundred women’s cooperatives in three dozen countries. The embroidery artists at KT continue to benefit from this partnership. They also see steady sales in the KT retail shop in the upscale mall in Kandahar. Mary also updated us about a mother-daughter team whose inspiring story was featured in Embroidering within Boundaries. They continue to work at KT and the mother says that she will not let her daughter (currently in 7th grade) get married until she finishes high school, and only then, if she wants to!

once and future woman
The eight embroidering daughters from Embroidering within Boundaries. Photo by Mary Littrell from Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future.

And what about that powerhouse Rangina Hamidi who founded Kandahar Treasure, the one who moved to Kabul to start a school for girls? She wrote last week to say “We are starting our 3rd year on April 1st and we have 158 students.” Congratulations on your triumphs, Rangina.

Once and Future Leaders

At the end of Rug Money, co-authors Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly detail their plan for a future leadership training program for selected women from the Multicolores Rug-Hooking Cooperative. I checked in with Cheryl for an update on this program (Mary Anne is currently at work with women artisan groups in Morocco). Cheryl outlined an amazing breadth of work and a heartening commitment to the rug-hooking artists, and not just to their creative lives.

Cheryl writes: “Our approach to designing the Leadership Program has been holistic, recognizing that to be a good leader you need to be self-aware, alongside having good organizational and technical skills. This means that more formal trainings have been interspersed with English and Spanish classes, creative pursuits (like Zumba, learning to play a musical instruments, proposed painting or drama classes), health talks, and individual counseling sessions.”

Bartola Morales Tol, a member of the Multicolores Rug-hooking group. Photo by Joe Coca from Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation.

This year the Leadership Program focused on everything from understanding current Guatemalan politics in the context of the upcoming presidential elections to building self-esteem and confidence when expressing individual viewpoints—something extremely challenging for women who have grown up in an environment where they’re marginalized, excluded, and have no right to participate.

“Lately,” Cheryl writes, “They have received workshops on color trends. One favorite activity was choosing an interior from a lifestyle magazine and color planning a rug with seasonal colors to complement the room. Glendy commented that for a summer inspired rug she might seek reference in a Chichicastenango huipil since the head opening represents the sun, its rays shining across the huipil in all four cardinal directions. Tomasa mentioned for a Spring inspired rug she would look to a Santiago Atitlan huipil with its embroidered birds, trees, and flowers. The leaders will soon replicate this workshop in their communities.”

Glendy Muj, one of the participants in the Multicolores Leadership Program. Photo by Joe Coca from Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation.

The enduring power of these organizations and their extraordinary members might best be summarized by a participant in the Multicolores Leadership Program: “The change starts in us, so that what surrounds us changes.”

Change on, women. You are our future.

—Karen


Discover more about the work of Kandahar Treasure and Multicolores in these Thrums Books.