Rubia is named for the red madder root used to dye yarn (to which you could add)used by women embroiderers in Afghanistan.
How Rubia Began
Rubia began in 2000 in Lahore, Pakistan when Ghulam Sakhi Rustamkhan asked Rachel Lehr, an artist and ethno-linguist living in New Hampshire, to help his impoverished family who had fled Afghanistan to escape the Taliban. We honor the memory of Sakhi who passed away on July 14, 2011. Rachel Lehr describes Sakhi’s role in the founding of Rubia:
When Ghulam Sakhi Rustamkhan — Sakhi — contacted me in 2000, he was a refugee in Lahore, Pakistan, desperately seeking a way to improve the lives of his immediate and extended family. Sakhi and I had been students together in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in the early 1980s but had lost contact in the intervening years. When he approached me all these years later, his family was living in appalling conditions in Lahore’s slums, along with other Afghan refugees from their home region.
Rachel responded with a plan for an indigenous enterprise where woman and teenage girls bound by the tradition of purdah(social segregation) could work at home through the age-old Afghan craft of embroidery, beginning Rubia’s two decade long collaboration with women around the world. To learn about Rubia’s past programs in Afghanistan click here!
Women in Tanti Bogolan’s Association in Mali create custom bogolan for Rubia as a source of desperately needed income. This makes a huge difference in their lives as most of these artisans are widows or have husbands who do not have the strength to work. Income from Rubia enables the women to buy basic necessities such as food, clothing or medicine for their children. According to Tanti Bogolan, when the orders decrease, the women cannot afford to buy cereal for their children.
Before the security and economic crises began in 2013, Djenné tourists bought bogolan from their association. In 2019, they tell us that their economy is dead:
Djenné est morte en activités.
Since the influx of tourists has dried up, the Tanti Bogolan association only sells their work to Rubia. Rubia then sells their work in the larger market of the United States, using the proceeds to purchase more bogolan. We appreciate these artisans’ hard work pursuing their cultural tradition of bogolan and hope you will continue to purchase these extraordinary pieces from Rubia!