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Afghan creativity, resilience and hope are highlighted in dynamic exhibition
At the age of 25, Samira Kitman (middle) is running Muftah-e Honar, one of Afghanistan's most successful arts businesses. After spending three years learning calligraphy at the Turquoise Mountain Institute, she secured a prestigious commission from the five-star Anjum Hotel in Mecca in 2014. Image courtesy Turquoise Mountain.

WASHINGTON, DC.- “Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan” converts the Smithsonian’s International Gallery into a space that evokes the vibrant marketplace of Old Kabul with artisans demonstrating their skills in jewelry making, woodworking, calligraphy, ceramics and other crafts.

“This exhibition highlights the vitality of these new Afghan artisans and demonstrates the power of art and culture to tell the story of artistic creativity, resilience and hope,” said Julian Raby, The Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. “This is a powerful moment meant to transcend the headlines of war and conflict.”

The exhibition, presented by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from March 5 through Jan. 29, 2017, invites visitors to experience the rebirth of Afghanistan’s cultural legacy after decades of conflict and neglect.

Turquoise Mountain is a British charity based in Afghanistan that works with Afghan artisans and architects to revive the country’s cultural heritage and revitalize Murad Khani, Kabul’s historic Old City where artisans live and work. Established in 2006, Turquoise Mountain was founded at the request of HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

The immersive exhibition includes:

· Seventeen visiting Afghan artisans, many of whom are teachers and young entrepreneurs, who will share their experiences and demonstrate their skills

· A caravanserai, a courtyard that served as a gathering and resting place for Silk Road travelers, recreated with more than three tons of hand-carved Himalayan cedar and that includes two 30-foot colonnaded arches and artisan stalls, embellished with colorful toshaks, Afghan cushions, where visitors may sit and take in the dynamic exhibition

· Immersive video and large-scale photographs

· An interactive touchscreen map of Afghanistan that allows visitors to explore the history of the region and explore its artistic traditions

· A social-media wall with current visitor feedback and changing content

Afghanistan is located at the heart of ancient Silk Road trade routes, and for more than 3,500 years it blended traditions from India, Persia and Central Asia into a distinct artistic culture. Decades of civil unrest that began in the 1970s nearly destroyed this vital heritage. Artisans were often forced to leave their country or give up their craft. The Old City of Kabul—Murad Khani, the once bustling center of craft and commerce in Afghanistan’s largest metropolis—fell into ruin.

Turquoise Mountain, named for a lost 12th-century city in Afghanistan, was founded at the request of HRH Prince Charles and Hamid Karzai, the then-president of Afghanistan. The charity is reviving the nation’s proud cultural legacy by transforming Murad Khani from slum conditions into a vibrant cultural and economic hub.

“Since we started about 10 years ago, Turquoise Mountain and the artisans of Kabul have been a very tangible and visible symbol of cooperation between the community of Murad Khani, the government of Afghanistan and the international community,” said Shoshana Stewart, CEO of Turquoise Mountain. “Now, we can bring their story to the American public.”

“Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan” is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Turquoise Mountain.

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