NAMYR is a sustainable ecommerce enterprise founded by Zahra, a cultural entrepreneur from Pakistan.
NAMYR aims to give the local community a platform to develop and trade high-fashion organic handmade products.
How it started?
In the autumn of 2016, a design consultancy took Zahra to a community in the northern hemisphere of Pakistan where she was captivated by the immense textile heritage. Despite living in Pakistan for most part of her life, she was struck by the raw talent of the people of this region. This region is called Kalash, which is more known for its beauty and less for the extraordinary inventive natives. Three of the Kalash valleys—Bumborate, Rumbur and Birir—are located to the south-western tip of district Chitral on the border of the Nuristan valley of Afghanistan - 46 kilometres and 2 hours’ drive from Chitral town.
The origin of the indigenous Kalash communities is shrouded in mystery. There are three parallel theories surrounding their origin: Some say the Kalash are descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great; other say they are indigenous to Asia and came from what is now the Nuristan area of Afghanistan and still other say the Kalash ancestors migrated to Afghanistan from a distant place in South Asia. Whatever might be the origin of the Kalash communities, it is an established fact that they have a unique and colourful culture of their own. Their way of life, dresses, cuisines, religious festival, rituals, worships and folksongs are entirely different from that of their Muslim neighbours.
Despite their vivid and unique culture, this community lives in morbid clusters, deprived of basic amenities and denied basic human rights. The indigenous Kalash culture is potentially threatened with extinction. Being traditionally vulnerable, they compromise on their own cultural identity and assimilate into Muslim culture. Presently the total population of the Kalash community is estimated at 3400. Kalash communities, in general, and women, in particular, have hardly received their share in the growing trend of economic development largely because they don’t have social standing, meaning that they do not have access to career opportunities the way members of other communities in Pakistan do. Seeing the potential in the people of this region Zahra decided to stay beyond the duration of the consultancy project. She got an opportunity to revive the indigenous techniques of back strap weaving on modernistic forecast by using organic material (wool and colours).
Working with these skilful women made her realize that the need of this community is more than just training. They need an outlet to access mainstream markets and generate an income, which can provide them better living. The unique pieces of artefacts they created elated her so much that she felt they should be available to people outside the valley.
NAMYR’S objective is ‘’maximizing the benefits to people and communities whilst minimizing impact on the environment’’. It puts sustainability at the core of everything. This project is addressing social issues as poverty, unemployment, women empowerment, inclusivity, and environment and supports the recognition of the cultural intellectual property rights of the Kalash craftspeople.
Currently NAMYR has 3 artisans permanently working and additionally 30 artisans registered with NAMYR for future collaborations.
1/3 of the profit for each product goes directly to the artisan who crafts that particular piece.
From yarn to weaving NAMYR produce eco-friendly cultural products and they commit to:
Cultural sustainability and culture preservation
Fair local wages
Toxin free fabric
Weaving textiles on backstrap loom is an ancient practice in Kalash. The yarn used for making woven textiles was originally sheep wool. Which is now replaced by acrylic thread in recent years.
NAMYR aims to revive the indigenous techniques of making organic yarn by using sheep wool and natural ingredients for extracting colors.This is a cost effective and eco-friendly process.
How it’s made?
Around mid May Klasha men take sheep to high pastures (traditional herding) until mid October.Hence sheep are sheared in the spring time and the fleece is recovered. Shearing in the spring allows the sheep to begin growing their wool in time to have a full coat by winter. Shearing is done with use of hand-shears. The fleece is removed in one piece. The wool is cleaned. At this point the fleece is full of lanolin and often contains extraneous vegetable matter, such as sticks, twigs, burrs and straw. Lanolin is removed by soaking the fleece in very hot water. It is possible to spin directly from a clean fleece, but it is much easier to spin a carded fleece. Hand spinning is done by using a spindle (taraku). Spinning turns the carded wool fibres into yarn. Thread is naturally colored by using different resources like walnuts, pomegranate, turmeric, henna and set in sun to dry.
The next process is the winding of the thread on a rotating reel in a reciprocating manner so as to form a skein of uniform thickness. Afterwards thread is set on a weaving tool called ‘trun’ in Kalasha to create a textile surface.