ISHKAR’s Universal Love carpets will launch during World Refugee Week, 14-20 June 2021. They are the result of a collaboration with Choose Love, a charity that provides support to vulnerable individuals who have been forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution and climate change. Philly Boyle, Head of Partnerships at Choose Love, explains that their action is rooted in tangible effects. ‘We all want to be safe and to be able to take care of ourselves and our families,’ she says. ‘But some of us are born in places where those needs cannot be met. Choose Love was founded as ‘Help Refugees’ in 2015, but this year, our name changed to reflect what we do more accurately. We do not want to fuel victimisation or dehumanisation via the messages we spread. Instead we promote positivity and trigger conversation about the circumstances of refugees, via beautiful, joyful objects.’
Besides inviting people to buy practical products such as tents, cold weather gear and hot food from its online shop to be distributed to those most in need, Choose Love sells merchandise to raise money. Most successful so far are the popular T-shirts with printed slogans by the political activist, fashion designer and the charity’s sustainability advisor, Katharine Hamnett. These are now joined by handmade rugs produced in Afghanistan in partnership with ISHKAR—a social enterprise that works with artisans in countries affected by conflict (see COVER 57).
Designed by artist and former ISHKAR intern Eman Ruhail, the two rug designs feature the word ‘love’ in seven different languages belonging to peoples affected by displacement: Arabic, Bengali, Chechen, Malayalam, Burmese, Amharic and Kyrgyz. All the profits (£1,143 from every rug sold) will go directly Choose Love’s projects supporting women, including The Orange House in Greece, The Refugee Women’s Centre in France and Unity Sisters in the UK. These projects all provide legal support, livelihood support and bare essentials for women living in refuge, helping them develop the skills, language and confidence needed to rebuild their lives.