2020: Year in Review

As we reflect on the past twelve months, a year that presented many challenges, it feels more important than ever to share some positive stories from 2020.


Saeeda, one of our supported Afghan jewellers

We are inspired by the resilience and creativity shown by Turquoise Mountain artisans and community members, and we are happy to share some of the highlights below.

In Afghanistan, we have now created jobs for over 4,000 weavers and jewellers, the majority of whom are female, helping them acquire new skills and linking them to clients all over the world. One of our supported jewellers is Saeeda, who studied at the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture and went on to establish her own jewellery business. With the support of Turquoise Mountain, she has designed and produced pieces with international jewellers as well as for exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and at Buckingham Palace in London. Last year, she continued her collaborations with UK jewellery designer Pippa Small and international brand Artisan & Fox, among others.

In 2020, we also opened our new Primary School in the old city of Kabul. The school is in a traditional building, complete with larger classrooms, a library, a gym, an auditorium, and an outdoor play area. The Murad Khani Primary School provides education to 120 students each year in eight subjects including Peace Education, English, Mathematics, and Dari. In keeping with the rich craft heritage of Murad Khani, children also learn Calligraphy and Miniature Painting, and take part in community events with shows of traditional songs and dance. Thanks to this new space, we can offer essential primary education to more children in the neighbourhood of Murad Khani.

JH Morad Khani School TM 6 1

Students enjoying the new Murad Khani Primary School

In Myanmar, our weavers and seamstresses responded creatively to the pandemic, using handwoven fabric to craft face masks at our Atelier in Yangon. Working with leftover stock fabrics, our team created a range of unique and colourful masks which have now sold all over the world. These masks have helped us operate a zero-waste policy in our workshop as well as support the local community – for every mask sold, we have donated one to our local community in Yangon. Our founding patron, HRH The Prince of Wales, has even been wearing his on official visits and promoting the work of our talented weavers and seamstresses.

One of these weavers is Ma Su, a Bamar weaver who began weaving at a young age, learning from her mother and sister. Before joining a Turquoise Mountain workshop, she would sell her products to Thailand, but was not generating sufficient income. Now a member of one of our weaver groups, she is producing fabrics for international clients and five-star hotels and supporting herself through her work.


Textiles produced by our Myanmar weavers

In both Saudi Arabia and Jordan, our workshops were initially closed, but thanks to the ingenuity of the teams, remote learning was adopted quickly. A ‘workshop-in-a-box’ was delivered to the students’ homes to allow them to continue training safely. Despite the challenges, trainees thrived in the new digital environment, learning basic theory and practising the skills they were learning with their at-home toolkit.

Ceramicist Ruba is a young arts graduate in Saudi Arabia who fell in love with crafts during her time at university. “I learned basic techniques and how to glaze and use a kiln oven. Unfortunately, we never learned how to use a wheel, but I was always thirsty to learn and find out more,” she says. In 2019, Ruba joined Turquoise Mountain’s ceramics workshop in Saudi Arabia and stood out for her precision and talent. During the first quarantine of 2020, Ruba was working remotely and creating craft video tutorials for the other artisans so that they could continue their training at home. “Ruba is an exceptional talent, and she did so well in the videos that we are preparing to create new tutorials that require a higher skill set (level 2) with her,” says Nada, Development Director.

Hanan Rawas copy

Hanan, one of our supported Saudi plaster carvers

We are immensely proud of the work achieved by our artisans in 2020 and the products they have created; from embarking on new collaborations to innovating in the face of adversity.

We look forward to seeing what 2021 has in store!