DR THOMAS WIDE — TURQUOISE MOUNTAIN, INTBAU AFGHANISTAN
Dr Thomas Wide (Turquoise Mountain and INTBAU Afghanistan) presented some of the challenges facing Murad Khane in Kabul, Afghanistan, and demonstrated Turquoise Mountain’s extremely impactful past and present work in the area. Tommy’s ‘before and after’ photographs of buildings and public spaces in Murad Khane were very effective. turquoise mountain – 14th century kingdom of Afghanistan.
Dr Tommy Wide is the Managing Director of Turquoise Mountain. He holds a first-class degree in Classics and Arabic from Oxford University, was a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University, and received his D.Phil in Oriental Studies from Balliol College, Oxford. He joined Turquoise Mountain in 2007, and he has lived and worked in Afghanistan since then. Tommy is the chair of INTBAU's Afghanistan chapter, which is hosted by Turquoise Mountain.
Turquoise Mountain was established in 2006, with the aim of reviving Afghanistan's traditional crafts, and regenerating Murad Khani, a historic area of Kabul's Old City known for its rich cultural heritage.
Thanks to Turquoise Mountain's action, Murad Khani has been transformed into a vibrant cultural, educational and economic hub. Turquoise Mountain also runs an internationally accredited vocational institute, which is now training a new generation of Afghan artisans in woodwork, calligraphy and miniature painting, ceramics, jewellery and gem-cutting.
- The project started in 2005 when Kabul had been destroyed not just by war but by the modernisers. The old caravanserais and merchant houses were lost
- We met the heads of communities and found that the people remembered their history and identity. We worked from this.
- First we cleared the area of garbage with wheelbarrows
- The 8000 werer trained in traditional woodwork techniques
- Now we train people in traditional ceramics, etc, and building trades
- Instead of telling people what they lacked we told them what they had and developed it.
- For Afghanistan national identity and pride is important and the project has become a symbol of this identity. Government opposed originally it and then later supported it
- Historic buildings were restored and this offered training and education not just amuseum
- We found a 85 year old wood worker who was recognised as a master and he was able to train the young
- There is a ceramic tradition in Afghanistan that is 400 years old – this we are reviving
- And so the traditional is in a state of constant renewal
- The business development side was vital. Now we support craftsmanship by selling abroad earning 1,000,000 dollars a year
- We have supplied the Anjel hotel, Saudi Arabia and the Afghan suite at Connell Hotel
- Now we are supplying woodwork for the new Afghan parliament
- A large part of new employment could come from craft renewal
- Land a great source of gem stones – sell jewelry around the world. All the crafts are in Maratine
- We are mounting major exhibitions around the world to sell the craft good