More on Afghan embroidery

Last week I was very excited about this exquisite Afghan textile that I had been able to borrow from my friend, Greg. I am happy to report that I now know a bit more about this beautiful piece of embroidery. A friend from my embroidery group kindly did some research and came upon this reference in Sheila Paine’s book, “The Afghan Amulet”.

‘Why do you want to go to Kandahar? There’s nothing there.’
‘For the embroidery. Those wonderful whitework shirts women used to make for their bridegroom. And their shawls.’

This seems to confirm that Greg’s tunic is indeed one of these splendid whitework tunics.

Further digging on the internet revealed Kandahar Treasure. From their website…

Kandahar Treasure employs women artisans from the Kandahar area in order to develop an economic base for the province and support the advancement of women throughout Afghanistan. We offer home décor items, such as pillows and tablecloths, as well as clothing and accessories embellished with a uniquely Afghan style of embroidery. This style is called Khamak (pronounced kha-mahk) and is one of the oldest and purest forms of embroidery art in the world.

This motif, worked here in gold on red, is almost identical to the motif covering a large part of Greg’s whitework tunic.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the whitework panel.
Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the whitework panel.

So, I am confident now that we know for sure that the whitework tunic is from Afghanistan. The sad part of the story is that refugees living in Pakistan needed to sell this family heirloom in order to make ends meet. But I am glad to know that their embroidery tradition is being continued. I still think Greg’s whitework tunic is one of the most exquisite pieces of stitching I am ever likely to see.

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