Khadija Sediqi is currently a student in our English classes, but, really, she is much more used to being at the front of the room, teaching. A woodcarving teacher, specifically, and a very talented one at that. Khadija became interested in the art of woodcarving because of her mother. Her mother is a talented woodworker in her own right, and Khadija learned from her while growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her mother has always been in corner and wants her daughter to be happy in her life. “All credit goes to my mom. She led me to this art and she helped me a lot,” said Khadija.
With her mother’s blessing, Khadija enrolled in a three-year woodcarving program at Turquoise Mountain Institute in Kabul as a young teenager; at the same time she was still studying at high school. “At night, I went to art school, and in the daytime, I went to high school.” Khadija was trained and works in the Nuristani woodcarving tradition, Nuristan being a state in northeast Afghanistan. In the Nuristani tradition, the wood is carved by hand with very intricate, delicate details.
Turquoise Mountain is an art institute with locations all over the Middle East: Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar. The institute’s primary mission is to restore heritage and culturally-significant buildings in order to support artists and revive traditional crafts across the region. Artists at Turquoise Mountain train in everything from jewelry and woven goods, to ceramics and calligraphy.
After graduating from the prestigious institute in 2010, Khadija went on to work at a small production company where she began making carvings and home décor. She also taught woodworking to British and American expatriates at the embassy in Kabul. One of the most exciting things thus far in Khadija’s life as an artist is working on a big woodcarving project that was exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
Since coming to the United States in 2016, Khadija has been able to continue to making art, though it’s been hard. “I didn’t have any of my tools, and I don’t really know any artists. But I did find a friend who has a garage where I could work for a little while. And the good thing is that I now found my tools on Amazon, so that makes me happy.”
Khadija has big goals and plans for her art. When asked about these, she said, “I can teach people woodworking, I would like to have a company to make these, I’d like to make YouTube videos to share with people who want to know about this art.” The things she wants to make are mostly decorations for the home. “Someone else would make the big stuff, like the cabinets – that is the carpenter, but I do the carvings that decorate the table.” When asked about her favorite wood to work with, she responded with no hesitation: “Walnut! Walnut is my favorite. But I also love cedar because it’s soft and smells so nice.”
Of her art, Khadija says, “I enjoy working with wood to bring old traditions back to life. I hope when people see my art, I hope they like it. That’s the most special part for me.”
Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
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