The isolated geography in the Pamirs is seen as a special asset to the handicrafts. As influences from other cultures (Iranian, Turkish) were minimal, Pamiri handicrafts developed an own distinct style.
When De Pamiri began its work, artisans were either ashamed of the idea of selling their handmade products or else unaware of the idea that people might actually buy products from them.
Still today, most artisans practice handicrafts in their free time after having worked on the fields during the day. Handicrafts are seen as a second source of income and are therefore produced mainly in the evenings and in winter. Only three of the 90 artisans collaborating with De Pamiri are working only with handicrafts. While most of the artisans are women, these three are men. De Pamiri has supported these artisans in establishing own workshops and with trainings.
Pamiri artisans buy most of the raw material for their products on markets in the Pamirs. This raw material is usually imported from China, has bad quality and uses synthetic dyes. Therefore, the quality of the end products are poor as well. Some artisans bring unfinished products to the De Pamiri shops, which forces the NGO to employ in house Artisans to inspect the quality and finish the products.
During the next three months we will visit a number of artisans in the region and post their profiles here.
From Friday 6th August to Monday 9th August, we stayed with our interpreters Shahlo and Sakina in Midensharv. There we met Zoir and his wife Jamila and we also had the chance to stay in their house for these three days. Zoir is working full-time on producing leather goods to sell through the De Pamiri shop in Chorog. He makes different kinds of products such as bags, hats or purses for mobile phones. In the 1990s, Zoir received support from an educational program and was taught how to make shoes. During some years, he had his own workshop in order to produce shoes of high quality. But when the support ended, he lost all the machines and material and could not continue shoe production anymore, even though he would like to.
When De Pamiri started their project in 2004, Zoir decided to cooperate with them and began working with leather. He also participated in several seminars in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan where he gained knowledge on using natural dyeing techniques for leather and wool. In 2007, he made a research on natural dyeing together with researchers of the botanical garden in Chorog. Unfortunately, this project was not continued and until now Zoir does not see any profit in experimenting with natural dyes. In the meantime he became one of the best artisans in the Pamirs working with leather products.
Komol + Bibiolam
Kamol lives with his wife Bibiolam and his two daughters in Midensharv, a village of 500 inhabitants one hour away from Chorog. Kamol is Zoir’s brother and they were 8 brothers and 4 sisters raised in Midensharv – all of them got a higher education, which is not standard in the Pamirs. Kamol also cooperates with De Pamiri and he calls himself “the master of felt”. In 2005, he participated in several seminars in Kyrgyzstan, where he learned about felting techniques. After some time, he built up his own felt workshop in Midensharv. Nowadays, there are 11 women producing different kinds of felt products such as toys, carpets, slippers or bags. Furthermore they sometimes also produce socks to sell them through the De Pamiri shop.
Aknazarov is the director of the botanical garden in Chorog, which was founded in 1940. We were told that the botanical garden started a project to research ancient dying techniques using plants growing in the Pamirs. This theoretical research started five years ago, but until now there has not been any progress on practicing dyeing techniques and developing recipes.
On Thursday 12th August, we went to Dashtak – a very nice village 25 minutes away from Khorog. The first woman we met was Togi. She lives with her husband and their children in her husband’s family’s house. Before cooperating with De Pamiri in 2004, she only made socks for her family members, but some years ago she also visited a seminar about felting techniques. Nowadays, Togi mostly produces hats, bags and sometimes socks to sell it in the De Pamiri shop in Khorog and in Dushanbe. Because there is a lot of work especially in summer, Togi is mainly knitting during her free-time. She prefers knitting Pakols (hats) rather than socks because it takes less time and is much easier to produce. If she has time, Togi produces yarn from her own sheep, which is a very difficult process that takes much time.
Togi is also teaching her daughter how to crochet socks. She shows much talent but still lacks experience.
Suhanoro, Zuhro, Gulsifad, Laili
These are four other women living in Dashtak who have been working with De Pamiri since 2005. They mainly produce felted toys, bags and pakols, but mostly work on order. They gained the knowledge to crochet socks from their mothers as well as from school, where they learned the technique at the age of about 14. Nowadays, they only make socks for their family members and as a gift on weddings.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of time to produce handicrafts during the summer. From May to October women are usually very busy with working on the fields and running their households. The summer time, however, is also the best time to sell their products, especially to tourists. This is one of the reasons why men, who have the chance to work on handicrafts full time, can gain much more money from it than women.
Asparmo, Tamina, Isafarmo, Gulanore
These four ladies started the cooperation with De Pamiri in 2004. They all live in Wanqala, a two hours drive from Khorog. Asparmo and Tamina have their own families, the other two women are not yet married and live in their parents` houses. They all took part on the seminar about reviving old socks and were very interested to discuss the technique with the other participants. However they prefer knitting hats or bags, two of them agreed to crochet each one a pair of old fashioned Pamir socks.