The object of my affection: a cultural relic

Photo: John Robinson Photo: John Robinson

“The object that is my most prized possession in my home is a handmade Afghan woman’s shepherd cloak that is about 80 years old, from the northeast province of Badakhshan. The cloak is made from felt and embroidered with beautiful silk thread designs of flowers. All of the dyes are made from things native to Afghanistan: lapis lazuli, pistachio, sunflower petals, pomegranate skin. Eighty years ago, the shepherd girl’s family and tribe would’ve been immediately recognizable by the unique designs on the cloak. I have it hanging in a large shadowbox in my bedroom, and I look at it almost every day in wonder at its simple, intricate beauty.

Now, shepherd girls, like everyone else in Afghanistan (and the world at large), mostly wear cheap Chinese mass-manufactured clothing and no one remembers how to embroider those designs anymore. Globalization has taken away that aspect of their culture.”

Elliott Woods