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Westerners’ notion of Afghanistan is one of extremely conservative dress. However, the country has traditionally been known for its embroidery, performed by women artisans. Each region of the country, and each social class, has an embroidery style of its own. In particular, the nomadic Kochiani people of Afghanistan are celebrated for their colorful, vibrant, and finely embroidered clothing – especially their dresses.

Hence, RAI has created The Kochiani Project. It will allow the voices of Afghanistan’s women – past and present – to speak through the talented hands of RAI’s refugee artisans. Eight RAI artisans from Afghanistan will construct a dress composed of 20 panels. Each panel will reflect a different embroidery style and region of Afghanistan, and require roughly 30 person-hours to complete per panel. 

This sketch, beautifully drawn by our production manager, Alpaja, depicts a view of the panels and its creative uniqueness.

Crafting of the dress will start in late-December 2022 and be complete by the end of January 2023. In addition to becoming the key piece in RAI’s gallery, the dress will be on display at the Seattle Opera’s world premiere production of A Thousand Splendid Suns. The exhibition will travel when the Seattle Opera production is done.

The dress will educate. There will be a QR code associated with each panel, providing information on the panel and the artisan who embroidered it. There will also be a video telling the story of the making of the dress, the refugees who crafted it, and how the traditional skills of Afghanistan’s women artisans live on through it.

Be part of history and help The Kuchi Project spread its message of creative, cultural identity, resilience and hope. If you would like to be part of this exciting endeavor, please donate today.

Thanks to the Seattle Opera and our generous sponsors: Basel Hajeb and the Quackenbush Family