Turquoise Mountain Smithsonian Exhibition

Speeches Shim

  • Duration: 
    Mar 2015 – Dec 2016
  • Value: $535,000


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the Turquoise Mountain Trust to showcase traditional Afghan handicrafts entitled “Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan” at the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution's national museums of Asian art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition, which started in March 2016 and ended in January 2017, told the story of how the traditional artisan community of Murad Khane in Kabul, Afghanistan, was revived through the preservation of its traditional architecture. The exhibition enabled visitors to interact with Afghan artisans engaged in producing traditional handicrafts. The project helped USAID create jobs, build links between Afghan producers and the international market, and highlighted USAID’s support of women in business. The exhibition was a highly visible and tangible USAID success story that enabled U.S. audiences to see Afghanistan, in the vision of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, as “open and engaged” with the wider world.


The opening reception for the exhibition at the Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries was held on March 14, 2016. Speeches about the richness of the Afghan arts, the creativity of Afghan artisans, and the progress the country has made in recent years were delivered by Director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art Dr. Julian Raby, CEO of Turquoise Mountain Shoshana Stewart, USAID Assistant to the Administrator Larry Sampler, Afghan Ambassador to the United States Hamdullah Mohib, Afghan Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Bari Jahani, Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Michael McKinley. On the evening of March 15, another reception was held where First Lady Laura Bush introduced the new Bush Institute book, “We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.” Both events were well attended, and the exhibition was extensively covered by the news media, including British Broadcasting Corporation (English and Persian services), the Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, the New York Times, the Economist, the Washingtonian, 1TV, and Pajwhok.


  • After the Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries began recording attendance numbers, over 49,000 visitors visited the exhibition.
  • Traditional handicraft demonstrations by Afghan artisans in the exhibition space and in other locations in the area were very popular with the public. On May 28, 2016 alone, 2,120 visitors came to see a demonstration by Afghan ceramicist Matin Malekzada.
  • The exhibition was a social media success; the Freer|Sackler social media team reported 3.4 million impressions on Twitter alone in the first month of the exhibition.
  • The museum shop had great success selling Turquoise Mountain products and almost sold out of its initial inventory of Turquoise Mountain products.
  • The program provided jobs for more than 100 Afghans citizens over a nine – month period, of which 35 percent were women.


Last updated: September 05, 2019

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