Follow a day in the life of master potter Abdul Matin. Abdul Matin was born in Istalif, a village nestled in the foothills of the Hindu Kush. For 400 years Istalif was famed for its turquoise ceramics, but in 1999 the village was razed to the ground by the Taliban. Abdul Matin was forced to bury his tools and leave. Now able to return, Abdul Matin is committed to reviving the Afghan craft of Istalifi pottery.
The potters of Istalif (in Afghanistan) believe their forefathers originally came from Bukhara, in modern-day Uzbekistan. Four hundred years ago the potter Sayyid Mir Kolal, whose surname means potter, is said to have travelled to Balkh in northern Afghanistan to escape political upheaval. Leaving behind some companions there, he continued on in search of a new home. With his four sons he chose to settle in Istalif, with its rich clay deposits, abundance of water, and beautiful surroundings. To this day, the potters of Istalif believe they each descend from one of Mir Kolal’s four sons.
Istalifi ceramics are renowned for their turquoise ishkar glaze. For centuries the ishkar plant has only been found in particular provinces in northern Afghanistan, allowing the artisans of this region to develop a distinctive ceramic tradition. The root of the ishkar plant is burned, ground into a powder and mixed with water. It is then combined with locally sourced quartz and copper oxide. Once fired, the pots are covered with the distinctive sea-green glaze.