The mission of Turquoise Mountain is to regenerate Afghanistan’s traditional crafts and historic areas, and in so doing create jobs, skills and a renewed sense of national identity.
Kabul’s historic old city was once a crossroads of civilisations. It inherited the traditions of India, Persia and Central Asia and blended them to form unique traditions of arts, crafts and architecture. The artistic heritage of Afghanistan has been a source of pride for its people and for the world for centuries. Architecture, arts and crafts have traditionally been central to Afghan economies, and demand for products has driven local industry and markets. During recent decades of conflict, much technical knowledge and artistic skill has been compromised, eroding local economies, and threatening an important part of Afghanistan’s cultural legacy.
Turquoise Mountain was established in March 2006, at the request of HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and HE President Karzai, President of Afghanistan. It has the three-fold objective of regenerating historic urban areas, renewing traditional Afghan arts and architecture, and spurring the sustainable development of the nation’s craft industry.
The Institute for Afghan Arts & Architecture
Turquoise Mountain’s Institute for Afghan Arts & Architecture was established in 2006 to revive and restore these threatened traditions, to train a new generation of artisans and to meet the demands of the ever-expanding markets inside and outside the country.
With on-going support from its founding patron HRH The Prince of Wales, the Institute is now established as the City & Guilds Centre for Afghanistan. It has rapidly become the leading arts education institution in the country. The Institute is led by the country’s foremost master artisans, with a qualified and experienced Afghan management team who maintain and continue to build on the symbolic and tangible successes of the first three years.
Diversity is an important principle for the Institute. 40% of the current student body at the Institute comprises women. Students are also from a range of educational backgrounds – many from existing craft families with little formal education to those who have studied at Kabul University. Students are aged between 15 and 25. They are from a variety of economic circumstances. Stipend and scholarship support is provided to the poorest of students and to those who come from the provinces to study at the Institute.
During their time of study, students create a wide range of individual pieces, complete masterwork projects, and explore the different applications of their craft within traditional architectural spaces.
The first class of students graduated in December 2009. Turquoise Mountain’s Graduate Opportunities Programme is providing strong and consistent support for these students as they set up their own businesses, study abroad, pursue teaching careers, or work in the Design & Production Studio.
Murad Khane – Urban Regeneration
Murad Khane is a historic quarter of Kabul in the heart of the old city, on the banks of the Kabul River, home to a multi-ethnic community and a thriving bazaar that attracts 10,000 visitors a week. Before Turquoise Mountain began its work, the area was buried under two metres of rubbish, it had no running water, drainage or electricity, and the community’s homes were collapsing. Now historic buildings are being restored and infrastructure is being installed as part of a comprehensive regeneration programme in collaboration with the local community and the Ministry of Education, to create an educational complex of international standing for Afghanistan. The heart of this complex will be the three courtyards of the Great Serai, once home to Afghanistan’s first school.
To date, Turquoise Mountain have cleared over 17,000 m3 of rubbish, and begun an infrastructure work to install water, electricity and sewerage throughout the area, made repairs and begun conservation work on over 60 residential and historic buildings, provided basic education for over 250 children and women, and basic healthcare, and provided employment for all eligible males in the area.
The Business Development Programme works to expand commercial opportunities for the Afghan crafts industry by linking high quality products to existing client demand abroad in the Design & Production Studio, which is equipped to produce large scale commissions, combining design and technical expertise in wood, ceramics, calligraphy and jewellery.
The Design &Production Studio, which employs Turquoise Mountain’s best students, as well as craftsmen and women from around the country, has created a vibrant and expanding international market for ornate Afghan woodcarving, traditional and contemporary calligraphy, and fine jewellery that draws on Afghanistan’s rich precious and semi-precious stone resources, exhibiting at trade fairs and art exhibitions in London, San Francisco, Venice, New York, Islamabad, Dubai and Bahrain. It has designed high quality gift ranges, from furniture and carved wall panels, to jewellery, calligraphy and ceramics.
Ceramics Production Unit
In March 2010, two of the Institute’s ceramics graduates worked with Turquoise Mountain to establish a Ceramics Production Unit, generously funded by the Australian Embassy, Kabul. After an initial set-up and design phase the production unit is now producing bowls and soap dishes at an international quality. Already, the ceramics unit has secured contracts to supply pottery to Kabul-based crafts shops. With an expected move into international sales next year, Turquoise Mountain expects the Ceramics Production Unit to expand the number of ceramicists it employs, thereby providing another avenue for students of the Institute to gain employment upon graduation.
For further information about Turquoise Mountain its programmes and its Institute for Afghan Arts & Architecture please visit: