I recently returned from a trip to Pakistan, where I was to meet the artisans who work so skillfully on the rugs for Bunyaad that Ten Thousand Villages carries year-round in two of our stores: Winnipeg Plaza Drive, Manitoba and Oakville, Ontario. While there, we ate together, sat around the fire together, played Dutch Blitz, and listened to each other, with a whole lot of laughter sprinkled in!
Despite spotty electricity and gas for heat, people continued in their day-to-day activities – whether it was work or play, taking a shower, or cooking. It’s humbling to see a huge breakfast ready for you, when you realize the people making it had no gas to cook with that morning, and had to get up at 4:00 AM to start the cooking fires.
Each Bunyaad rug has the lives of the people in Pakistan entwined into it:
- A designer who has been drawing intricate designs for 30 years;
- The mother who is knotting the rug while her children are at school;
- The washers whose muscles ripple with the strength it takes to wash one rug for hours and hours;
- The finishers who, just by walking around a rug and looking from atop, see and mark where the wrong colour was used in one knot out of 800 knots per square inch.
Pakistan is primarily a Muslim country. Within Bunyaad, both Muslims and Christians work side by side. Many of the artisans I spoke with gave a reflection on this. Over and over again, I was told that working in Bunyaad was the same as being part of a family. They all spoke of the respect they receive for their work and the flexibility of the work hours – all part of why they would not want to work elsewhere.
The quality of the materials used – materials that are too high-quality for other rug producers – gives them the proper tools to create the works of art that last for generations, and generate respect for the artisans who produce them.
The warmth and hospitality of the people of Pakistan will stay with me for a long time! Laughter, song, and warm fires gave us many memories – memories that will be knotted into my daily life, much like one of their rugs.