An institute that teaches Afghanistan’s traditional arts and crafts is inspiring a whole new generation
12 MARCH 2013 | KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
When Habibullah Saifizada looks at one of his gemstones, he sees a glittering symbol of the future. A graduate of the USAID-funded Institute of Afghan Arts and Architecture at Turquoise Mountain, Habibullah runs a thriving jewelry business. “I want to become a famous jeweler,” he says, proudly describing the orders he has received from as far afield as Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Tucson.
His dreams echo those of more than 90 graduates and at least 200 trainees who learnt one of four traditional skills at the Institute: jewelry and gem-cutting, woodwork, calligraphy and miniature painting, ceramics and tiling.
It is no coincidence that Habibullah’s business co-exists with the Institute in Kabul’s historic Murad Khane district. The Institute, which has trained a new generation of artisans in Afghanistan’s traditional arts and crafts from 2008, emphasizes the importance of promoting business activity in the area.
After graduation, Habibullah set up shop in the historic district and hired three classmates. “I’m from an artistic family,” he says, explaining that his jeweler-father inspired the desire “to study jewelry making.” Along with helping to regenerate an historic district of the Afghan capital, he says he’s also passing on some of what he learned at the Institute to his brother, who has a jewelry shop in Shahr-e-Naw.