In July of 2010 a devastating flood hit Pakistan. The UN estimated that nearly one-third of the country was submerged, causing 20.4 million people to be affected by this tragedy. As a response, a socially conscious company called Poetic Threads of Pakistan (PTOP) was formed to help jumpstart the lives of those who were affected.
Poetic Threads of Pakistan empowers artisans, helping men and women get back onto their feet through the production and preservation of traditional crafts. PTOP has been working with artists throughout the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, located along the Afghan border. This area is often misrepresented so rather than being associated with constant conflict and instability, it is PTOP’s vision to highlight the positive within their country, sharing their ancient, rich and dynamic, art with the world.
PTOP teams up with established artisan cooperatives, as well as independent families who produce everything from Moghul Kundan jewelry to fine Hazara (Jiti) embroidery. They are working with weavers who live in remote valleys and continue to raise their own sheep and goats for wool that is hand-spun and woven into fine fabrics. All textiles are then handed over to affiliated women run cooperatives who embroider and embellish using traditional techniques. Their motifs are inspired by traditional geometric floral designs that are stitched in vibrant hues of fuchsia and maroon.
A partner organization to PTOP is the Women’s Handicraft Center in Saidu Sharif, founded by Niolfer Bibi. Since 1978, Bibi has trained over 1,800 girls in tailoring, crocheting, embroidery, and other handicraft skills. They believe that by empowering the craftswomen with a livelihood, it not only gives them a sense of financial freedom and confidence, but also creates a newfound appreciation for their heritage. It is now becoming more common to see the artist wearing traditional dress in their daily life.
A list of challenges for the PTOP runs long—lack of electricity and political instability are of particular concern. It’s little or no surprise when the power is cut for up to 12 hours a day, which hinders production time, let alone causes personal discomfort such as lack of proper light lack strains the eyes. As many women work from their homes, gas for a generator is also costly. Materials are not readily available, requiring staff to sometimes have to drive up to six hours to purchase fabric and other materials. Therefore, a country that has been a producer of silk now is purchasing from China because they can’t compete with the low prices.
However, PTOP tackles one obstacle at a time. They’re gaining international recognition as they’re sharing their fine craftsmanship with the world. Through trade and the promotion of traditional handicrafts, culture and development are linked, creating a platform to help rebuild sustainable, well-balanced societies. PTOP is treasuring their arts, and with optimism, they continue to move forward.
For more information please visit, http://poeticthreadsofpakistan.org