Strong women have always shaped Afghan history, as Queens, poets and Empresses have they made their respective contributions to shaping Afghanistan as a country and influenced its culture. Today, women are continuing that quest in spite of extremely challenging circumstances. Around the world women do not enjoy equal opportunities, but in Afghanistan women face particularly steep divisions to cross.
Over the past two decades the education of girls and the empowerment of women are achievements that Afghanistan can be proud of. These changes have set the foundation for more inclusive politics and, if maintained, could prove to be a lasting positive contribution to Afghanistan’s future. However, these gains are still fragile, and in a volatile political situation need to be further strengthened and maintained.
In a nascent peace process and with the international military presence in Afghanistan rumored to end soon, questions arise about the sustainability of the significant changes that have been reached. To pay homage to Afghan women’s strength and resilience, ’Abarzanan’ (superwomen) selected inspiring women and creates wearable monuments to honor each woman’s contribution to Afghan history. These wearable monuments synthesize recognition of Afghan cultural heritage with modern style.
Abarzanan selected eight women, four women from Afghan history and four contemporary pioneers. Three of the women inspiring the collection are under 25, emphasizing the extraordinary strength and determination that some Afghan girls and women prove each day.
In honoring these women, Abarzanan dives deep into Afghan cultural heritage and works in collaboration with some of Afghanistan’s finest artisans, inclduing painters, calligraphers and jewelry makers. Each piece carries an individual story of Afghan heritage, traditional and modern artistry, and women’s empowerment. Dedicating a whole collection to Afghan heroines is a pioneering endeavor by Abarzanan, honouring historical traditions of Afghan creativity.
This approach is unique in it’s approach to joining Afghanistan’s past and future. While creating a vision of an empowered future, it honors the past through showcasing Afghan traditions and culture, including embroidery, Afghan tile patterns and design, as well as traditional jewelry making and metal working. This approach was design to an era of peace-building and reconciliation, bringing together Afghanistan’s past and its future, its rulers and artists, its youth and old traditions. Directing attention to remarkable Afghan women is part of an Afghan-led empowerment movement. The central message of ‘Abarzanan’ is a celebration of centuries of strong, influential role models for Afghans, by Afghans, rediscovering their contribution to the beauty of Afghan culture that still exists today. This will support not only the superwomen honored in this exhibition, but inspire other women to step up and realize their full potential. This ‘Abarzanan’ collection includes political queens, the first female Afghan minister, poets, a musician, an athlete and an inspiring survivor of domestic violence.
In addition, ‘Abarzanan’ provides sustainable livelihoods to some of Afghanistan’s female artists and craftspeople. The makers of the wearable monuments designed by Abarzanan are practicing a trade of Afghan cultural heritage that is at risk of being lost. Most of these craftspeople are themselves everyday superwomen, breadwinners for their families.
This exhibition is the first in the series of events that will continue in the coming years to celebrate Afghan and international superwomen.