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Nuristani Woodworking Artisans from Afghanistan

is the artisan in the spotlight this week

Artisan Nuristani Woodworking Artisans

The dramatic peaks and valleys of northeastern Afghanistan are home to the province of Nuristan, whose mountains and rich forests have nurtured a long tradition of intricate and beautiful woodcarving. The Nuristani woodworking tradition employs the simplest of materials: high quality walnut and Himalayan cedar wood, basic tools, the experienced hands of master craftsmen, and the folk memory of hundreds of traditional designs which are endlessly reconfigured and re-interpreted. Each piece is a unique symbiosis of material, master and motif. No screws and nails are ever used, even when a piece contains dozens of separate elements. A tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation, Nuristani woodworking suffered and nearly died out during Afghanistan's decades of war. But thanks to masters like Abdul Adi who train new carvers, this longstanding tradition has found new life in Kabul and Nuristan.

Artisan Abdul Adi

75 year-old Ustad (Master) Abdul Adi comes from a long line of woodcarvers, and finds great joy in teaching Nuristani classical carving to others. As a boy, he worked in his father's shop on Koche Najarah, the woodcarvers' street, learning skills that had been passed from father to son for generations.

The father of eight, Ustad Adi has lost two sons, his wife, and one daughter to war and disease. Today, he lives with his son and five grandchildren, some of whom he is teaching to carve. Ustad Adi also teachers other students through a local woodcarving cooperative, and hopes that they will someday be Ustads themselves. "I become happy when every student learns something new," he says. "As you see, I am getting old, I am here to teach this craft so it does not disappear. This is the most important thing for the future of Afghanistan."

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