Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Spirit of Afghanistan: Tradition and Renewal Through the Arts

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Today’s war-torn Afghanistan has complex origins, with many tribal cultures contributing to its identity. An important crossroad of Central Asia for many centuries, the region now known as Afghanistan has followed various religions and witnessed interacting artistic traditions. Trade routes, blurred borders, and the nomadic life have helped bring about rich cultural exchanges, while tribal affiliations have maintained specific customs and identities within groups.

Afghanistan is again a country in transition. As a result of decades of war, thousands of people, particularly women and children, have been wrenched from their normal existence and scattered throughout refugee camps—many in neighboring countries. A large percentage of men and boys have been removed from their families, often never to return, adding yet another layer of tragedy to a now-dysfunctional society.


Afghans 4 Tomorrow— This nonprofit, nonpolitical humanitarian organization is dedicated to the development of Afghanistan.

ARZU— This international NGO uses private sector practices to help Afghan women weavers break the cycle of poverty through artisan-based employment.

ASCHIANA Foundation— Using a term meaning “the nest,” this NGO supports and educates street-working children and their families.

Global Exchange— Dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice since 1988, this nonprofit organization envisions a people-centered globalization.

Turquoise Mountain Arts— This program is regenerating Afghanistan’s traditional arts and historic areas, creating jobs, skills, and a renewed sense of national identity.

More Than Warmth— More than 500 quilts have been distributed since More Than Warmth began in 2007, representing approximately 5,000 children, as witnessed by this testimonial on the website from an Australian woman:

Judith Biondo Meeker has also demonstrated that craft is a marvelous way to build world peace and provide children with a means of understanding and responding positively to the world around them. . . . In workshop after workshop, Judith introduces American schoolchildren to an area of the world where people their own age are suffering from poverty, war, natural disasters, or traditions of child enslavement . . . By making these quilts, these children realized they could make a genuine difference, and this provided them with hope and a sense of connectedness.

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