Keeping the Story Alive

On this particular night, all of the rooms of my house are stacked high with the delicious textiles I love ~ suzanis thrown over chairs, antique coats hanging in doorways, remnants piled on coffee tables - tactile temptation everywhere.  Long before Ibu, I am hosting a non-profit raising funds for building schools in Afghanistan, and doing so by selling lovely vintage textiles of the region. Heaven. 

After the crowd leaves, I exclaim over each piece as I pack things up, making a pile to purchase.  An Afghan man watching me, a bit amused by my enthusiasm, says, You know what your name means in Farsi, don't you? I don't. In Farsi, Susan means needlework. He grins at my surprise. Then it clicks - the famously gorgeous embroideries of the area, suzanis, and my given name carry the same story.

So, maybe this is my destiny, I think; this work of women wielding their needles as tools of change.

Later, in Uzbekistan, I visit a group wielding needles as artistry, as income; and yes, their lives are changing.  Madina oversees this group of 30+ women, interpreting their ancient designs into our Ibupattern, taking two women over a month to complete one jacket. 

As I watch their fingers fly over and under a taut silk, I think of a musican at the keyboard, a writer at the desk.  In the past, women always wrote their stories in cloth (with no access to reading or writing); the needle was their pen. Their narratives evoke feelings but do not explain thoughts.  They spell in colors, a vocabulary of symbols passed down. And even as literacy expands to include more and more women around the world, still this powerful language persists.

I have seen it, and so must say:  in the hands of a woman who wants to feed her family or make her own choices or live her own life, a tiny needle is a mighty thing.  I think I'll keep my name.  

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker