Afghan rug sellers arrived at the School of Medicine this week for a two-day exhibition to promote cultural exchange and children’s healthcare.
On Monday and Tuesday mornings, the Zamani House of Heritage — a Virginia-based Afghan crafts business — exhibited and sold Afghan handmade rugs, textiles, jewelry and handcrafts at the Harkness Lounge in the School of Medicine. Part of the proceeds went to Children’s Chance, a non-profit organization that brings children with medical needs from all over the world to the United States to receive treatment.
“This is our way to bring our culture to America,” Temur Zamani, manager of the business, said. “We want to show the world that there is more to Afghanistan than the violence.”
The exhibition featured colorful silk and wool rugs of different sizes and patterns, which can take from two months to two years to complete, according to Zamani. Other goods included leather and embroidered bags, necklaces, rings, bracelets and pottery made of the gemstone lapis lazuli, of which Afghanistan is one of the main producers. One of the embroidered textiles was an American flag, while another featured the Afghan and the American flags joined by a dove. One more featured the “Afghan Girl,” the subject of the well-known June 1985 National Geographic cover photograph.
The Zamani family has been in the rug-making business since the 1970s, Zamani said, adding that his grandfather was a farmer in the Shamali Valley north of Kabul. After completing his college studies in London, Zamani settled in the United States with his family, where they continued the business, opening their first store in 2002.
He obtains the imported rugs, Zamani said, from the villagers near his ancestral home. For them, Zamani said, this is one of their main sources of income.
Children’s Chance director Dorita Urrata commended the efforts of the Zamani family to provide a different view of their homeland, at the same time offering an economic impulse to the rural places in the country.
“If we can support organizations like this, it’s the same as adding jobs,” Urrata said. “It helps local people help themselves.”
Part of the proceeds from this event, she said, will go towards bringing Lydia — a handicapped Middle eastern girl whose last name is not publicly shared — to the United States to receive medical help. In the past, she said, Children’s Chance has brought several children to the U.S. for medical treatment from all over the world, including Latin America and West Africa.
Helen Roginiel, a senior administrative assistant for plastic surgery, who helped set up the event, said that she supports this type of cultural exhibition because it provides an “honest income” to people in foreign countries at the same time offering Americans the opportunity to buy crafts.
According to the U.S. Department of State, Afghanistan exports $252 million in fruits and nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, and precious and semiprecious gems.