Every refugee handicraft embodies countless stories. Although the experience of being forced to flee from home may have changed many refugees’ lives, their unique traditions, cultures, and craftsmanship can never be taken away by ruthless wars and conflicts. This Christmas, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Hong Kong has launched the MADE51 Holiday Collection. You can find various styles of ornaments, including those crafted by Afghan refugees, for instance, Afghan Hound, Snow Leopard and Eternal Snowflake. Refugee artisans from around the globe tell their stories through these gifts crocheted with love, manifesting their extraordinary skills and unimaginable courages.
Stories of Afghan Women: Integrating Traditions into Embroideries
Every single stitch of these delicate handicrafts encompasses the laughter and tears of refugees. MADE51’s Holiday Collection has a series of ornaments in the forms of different animals and shapes. The design of Afghan Hound, developed from a silky dog breed that is native to Afghanistan and widely loved by locals, represents the memories and longing of Afghan refugees for their homeland, whereas Snow Leopard is also a national animal in Afghanistan, symbolizing bravery and beauty.
Bilqees, an Afghan woman living in a refugee camp in Pakistan, utilizes her incredible embroidery skills to earn an income to support her children’s education. She expressed hope and shared that “our work as artisans flourishes even more. It will benefit the lives of our children.” Bilqees and other refugee women are supporting their families through crafting decorations for MADE51 to make a living and give their children a better future by providing them with the opportunities to go to schools.
Also from Afghanistan, Najiba, who is a mother of four, fled to Kuala Lumpur due to military and political conflict in her homeland. Bringing with her skillful hands in cross-stitching and crocheting, she has been working with MADE51’s partner, Earth Heir, to create beautifully embroidered jewellery. Not only does it provide her with much-needed income for her family, it also allows her to take care of the young children at home and show them her crafts in the meantime.
Creations Inspired by Nature and Hardships
Apart from having exquisite craftsmanship and skills, these refugee artisans from all parts of the world also bring their daily observation and traditional wisdom into their creations. The enchanting and everchanging nature is one of the sources of their inspirations. From camels that are the symbols of endurance and persistence in desert areas, to vibrant seasons of blossom that give us immense hope, our surroundings are constantly fueling refugees’ creativity. MADE51 gathers all kinds of exceptional decorations handcrafted by people forced to flee – Syrian refugees craft Proud Camel with their fine knitting skills, while internally displaced women in South Sudan use intricated glass beading to bring radiant flowers to life, namely Blossom of Hope. Congolese refugees utilize their freehand carving technique to make Peaceful Dove. Behind each seemingly little handmade ornament, there is a completely different refugee story.
Globally, the vast majority of refugees and displaced people are living in regions short of resources. They can only make use of limited materials to produce things for a living. “I make almost everything that is necessary for daily life and survival in the desert: tents, bags, saddles, swords, pottery, padlocks, keys, shields, lances, beds, musical instruments and, of course, jewels,” said Sidi, a Tuareg blacksmith in Niger. With creativity, refugees surmount various kinds of hardships in life, no matter how big or small.
MADE51 incorporates refugees’ resilience, as well as their excellent craftsmanship and wisdom into handicrafts to empower refugee families to become self-reliant. It provides everyone with the platform to unleash their talents and skills to shine in the world.
During this Christmas, you will be gifted with a refugee handcrafted ornament for every donation of not less than HKD350 given via the designated donation webpage. Learn more: https://www.unhcr.org/hk/en/made51
Concept of MADE51:
Brought to life by UNHCR, MADE51 brings beautiful, refugee-made products to the international market. Throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East, MADE51 links refugee artisans in hosting countries with local social enterprises that work in the artisanal sector. MADE51 social enterprise partners are selected based on their proven experience in design, production management, export and marketing.
These partnerships are the heart of MADE51. Based in refugee-hosting countries, each social enterprise works directly with refugee artisan groups to create a unique MADE51 range which is sold alongside the enterprise’s existing lines.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.