HAMIDI, Rangina and Mary LITTRELL, with photographs by Paula Lerner (2017). Embroidering Within Boundaries. Afghan Women Creating a Future. Loveland, Colorado: Thrums Books. LCCN 2017933269. Softback, 171 pp., with numerous colour ills. Brief bibliography. Price: US$ 34.95.
This is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of Kandahar Treasure (http://www.kandahartreasure.com), an artisan organisation that was set up in southern Afghanistan in 2009 by Rangina Hamidi. She is an American woman of Afghan descent, who after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 travelled to Kandahar in the south of the country, and started working with local women on a revival of the famous style of Kandahar embroidery, called khamak. As well as telling the story of the company (which is NOT an NGO), it also tells the story of Rangina Hamidi herself, and of a number of courageous Kandahari women working for and with the company. Khamak is a style of extremely fine embroidery, created with satin stitch and worked from the back of the material, that originally was known for its whitework, but is now also worked with coloured threads. Khamak, which means raw, untwisted or unspun, is worked with an untwisted floss silk thread to create a flat and shiny embroidery surface.
Recommendation: This book should find a wide readership among anyone interested in embroidery, but also among those who are working for or with local groups worldwide that try to promote local handicrafts in order to provide women with an extra source of income. It should also be read by anyone involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
Willem Vogelsang, November 2017.