February 21, 2011

On the first day I assembled our first batch of apprenticed weavers and dyers in the courtyard of our Madrassah workshop, I told them that I would not be around for ever and that my aim was for our workshop to be sustainable. In recent times I began to wonder whether this was really possible. Although the carpet and suzani workshops continue five years after I was kicked out, their supplies of dyes previously purchased from Afghanistan were dwindling. I’d discussed the issue with Madrim each time I phoned him; the Uzbek government wouldn’t grant him an exit visa to go to Afghanistan, and we’d been unable to find an Afghan trader to bring dyes to Uzbekistan. Madrim was wondering about Iran and buying madder root, indigo, zok and oak gall from there, however, he doesn’t speak Tajik or Farsi and getting the dyes across the Turkmenistan border seemed impossible. I tried to imagine our silk carpets reduced to a spectrum of white, brown and yellow, and my heart sank.

The good news is that Madrim has finally managed to find an Afghan trader who has supplied the workshop with the dyes they need to produce blues, reds and black. The workshop is back in business and I’m cautiously confident that it has what it needs to be sustainable for a while longer yet.