Art as economic power: Afghan refugee women in New Bedford show their skills
Fine crafts by six Afghan women who came to Massachusetts as refugees in 2021 have been placed on exhibit at the New Bedford Free Public Library — but this show is about more than the art.
The idea came from a financial literacy class offered to refugees who had recently arrived from Afghanistan, according to a woman who helped to coordinate the exhibit. CAI agreed to withhold her name for the safety of her colleagues in Afghanistan.
“We were discussing everyday what these ladies can do to have a financial support for their family,” she said. “And there, we came to know that all of these ladies have some special skills. … These are the ladies who cannot communicate in [the] English language. And it was hard for them to come out and work in this community.”
Their handmade craftwork on display includes intricately decorated clothing, cushion covers for traditional floor seating, woven door hangings, and decorative painting. Dresses are embellished with stitched details, tiny mirrors, and ornamental coins.
The title of the show, Dil ba Dil Rah Dhara (From One Heart to Another), comes from an Afghan proverb, “From one heart to another, there is a way.”
The exhibit is part of the Afghan Women’s Art Project, a local effort to help refugee women use their artistic skills and develop sources of income. Organizers hope to help some of the artists start their own businesses.
A coalition of city offices, nonprofits, faith-based groups and volunteers are working together to support this and other projects under the name SouthCoast Afghan Welcome Network.
The show runs through the end of March. Items from the show will be auctioned to benefit the artists and their families.