Afghan jeweler overcomes adversity to create world-class art

CCTV News

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Afghans are no strangers to hardship: The country has suffered from persistent instability since the 1980s. But one jewelry maker has overcome conflict, and disability, to become a celebrated artist on the world stage.

CCTV’s Catherine James has the story.

Afghan jeweler overcomes adversity to create world-class art

Afghan jeweler overcomes adversity to create world-class art

Afghans are no strangers to hardship: The country has suffered from persistent instability since the 1980s. But one jewelry maker has overcome conflict, and disability, to become a celebrated artist on the world stage. CCTV's Catherine James has the story.

At first glance, Saeeda Etebari looks like any other 27-year-old Afghan woman.

But what you do not see is a girl born in a tent of a refugee camp in Pakistan, afflicted with meningitis as a baby which left her unable to hear, and who is now on her way to becoming a world-class jewelry maker.

The third of nine children, Saeeda admits – speaking through her older brother Khan with sign language – that she struggled through her younger years to accept that she was incurably deaf, but now she sees it as something akin to a blessing.

“And even here in my workshop when I work, there is all this hammering and these noises and they don’t affect me. So wherever I go, I think rather than other people who have their minds troubled with different ideas and everything, my mind is a bit calmer,” she said, via sign language with her brother, Khan Etebari.

Saeeda’s capacity to work without distraction may well be the strength behind her exquisite jewelry that has already been lauded in Afghanistan. Her talents were first noticed when she was an apprentice at the Turquoise Mountain Institute, the only internationally-accredited arts vocational training in all of central Asia.

The Institute aims to revive the traditions of Afghanistan’s ancient and unique handicrafts that were being lost through decades of conflict.

Even the place where Turquoise Mountain is today had been almost destroyed through war and 30,000 tonnes of rubbish, before they restored it to its former glory.

Saeeda will travel to the U.S. after the exhibition opens in March to share her story alongside her work. Her brother Khan says no one, not even her family, could have ever imagined the girl born in a refugee camp and unable to hear or speak would one day have the most promising international career of all.