Seven of them, actually. Seven sisters. In Kyrgyzstan. Like never before, linking arms. Because . . . Covid.
We began to hear reports of terrible things happening with our artisan colleagues in Kyrgyzstan. So terrible, I didn't believe them. We've certainly heard from imposters before, posing as artisans in trouble, pleading cash. So, though I put the emails aside, I thought it would be a good idea to check in with Zhanyl, just in case.
The worst was true. Writes Zhanyl,
Yes, we are going through a difficult time like the whole world, but our country has been mercilessly covered with covid, there is no help from the state, there are no places in hospitals, volunteers and ordinary citizens are organizing hospitals and saving each other. We have a very high mortality rate, have run out of supplies, doctors die not only from illness but also from exhaustion, working 20 hours a day. Every family is sick, even those families that were completely isolated. Everyone in my family is also sick, I am lying with a fever, this has been going on for 20 days. Your order helped us a lot, and to continue working, which is very important for us now. My sisters have pitched in to help me with work. And we will be grateful to you for any more orders for us, it would be salvation not only for our cause, but also we could support our women and their families a little, who are forced to just stay at home and wait for better times. Let's believe that they will come soon for all of us.
You have long loved the coats and dresses Zhanyl and her sisters have made, so much so they have become an Ibu Classic. We ask the sisters to try our new designs each season, and this is no exception, a design motif running throughout our Fall Collection. Mandorla-like, and whole. With many interconnecting lines.
But it is different introducing this season's jackets, knowing that lives depend on our sales and orders. It is humbling. I feel an urgency - as I always do - but even stronger now.
I think about the Seven Sisters (first introduced to me at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market), and their arms linked in life and work. I was lucky to visit them in Bishkek two years ago, and see the work unfold. Curls and swirls of felted wool - like snow off of their glorious white mountains - nestled into soft dark silk.
We join them, do we not? Like the volunteers in Bishkek working to save one another's lives; like the sisters linking arms to save their livelihood, so do we become a part of those interconnecting lines. Friends, advocates, allies, all. One world. One hope. One sister at a time.
Susan Hull Walker