If you enjoy global crafts and global causes, you’ll want to register for a special benefit coming up Jan. 13. An authentic Afghan dinner and silent auction will celebrate the crafts of Afghanistan and support Afghan literacy and orphanages.
The fundraiser, held nearly annually at since 2002, benefits Kabultec, a U.S.-based non-profit sister organization to the Roqia Center for Women’s Rights, Studies and Education in Afghanistan.
Both were founded by Nasrine Gross, an Afghan-American who divides her time between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The silent auction will include an Afghan cooking class with Gross, and hand-crafted items from large and small textiles to jewelry, pottery, woodcarving and metal work. There will also be a raffle of handicrafts.
Gross brings handicrafts from bazaars, especially from women’s organizations, all over Afghanistan. She wants there to be “an understanding of what the psyche of the Afghans is, how they view beauty, what is aesthetics for them.” So the items she brings “are not high art, these are objects that they use day in and day out for thousands of years.”
Textiles—beyond rugs—are particularly featured. “One of the things that I try to bring is one of the dying arts of Afghanistan, the embroideries," Gross said. "Traditionally they are done around weddings. Afghanis don’t use closets; they put a bride’s dowry inside beautifully embroidered cloth. Those are exquisite, one of a kind.”
Furthermore, she explained, “There are some people who live in yurts in the mountains, so they don’t have the kind of doorways we have, they have beautiful intricately embroidered pieces they hang around the opening to protect from drafts.”
“Lately I have been trying to bring some of the paintings the young people are doing of scenes of Afghanistan, women walking with their burqas, the old architecture," she continued.
Also, Gross said, she likes to bring pieces from Nuristan province, known for its elaborate carved woods, such as drinking cups made by artisans from one piece of wood, then lacquered on the outside.
“The jewelry is also very unique," Gross said. "Lapis lazuli has been used for more than 8000 years and Afghanistan is still making jewelry from that stone. Some of the settings are lotus flower, or teardrop, or diamond shape, very eternal shapes, circles within circles.”
The classic themes, she said, are also seen in the pottery.
Gross has been working on Afghan women's rights since 1996, and formed Kabultec in 2003.
“I started literacy classes in Kabul and needed to raise funds," she said. "I knew there were Americans who wanted to help just a little bit, and a lot of institutions that didn’t know where to contribute, and I wanted to connect with them. This is a very good way of doing something personal.”
The food and handicrafts aren’t all people will take away from their evening. Keynote speaker Philip Poullada will report on his trip to Afghanistan and his work with orphanages and building of democracy, and Gross will report on her organizations’ 2011 activities.
The fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, 9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda. The reservation deadline is Jan. 11, but tickets may sell out sooner. $50 per person. Mail checks made out to "Kabultec" to: Eleanor DePaola, 7941 Inverness Ridge Rd., Potomac, Md. 20854-4010.
Packets of vegetable and flower seeds for widows’ gardens in Afghanistan will be gratefully accepted.
If you are unable to attend but would like to support Kabultec, donations are welcome. All contributions to Kabultec are tax-deductible, and are used for Roqia Center projects in Kabul.