Exhibitions

Turquoise Mountain: Jali Woodwork

Scenes from Turquoise Mountain, Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, September 30, 2013. Photo © by Tina Hager fro TFBSO.

Scenes from Turquoise Mountain, Kabul, Afghanistan, September 30, 2013. Photo © by Tina Hager fro TFBSO.

Jali is the term for a latticed screen, which can be made of wood or stone. This screen usually has an ornamental pattern based on geometric designs. It is a style of work found across the Islamic world. In Morocco and much of the Middle East, this style of work is known as mashrabiyya, while in Afghanistan and South Asia it is known as jali.

Jali screens were used in many elements of traditional domestic and public architecture in Kabul. Areas such as Murad Khani and Asheqan-o-Arefan (restored by the Afgha Khan Trust for Culture) have excellent surviving examples of this work.

Scenes from Turquoise Mountain, Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, September 30, 2013. Photo © by Tina Hager fro TFBSO.

Scenes from Turquoise Mountain, Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, September 30, 2013. Photo © by Tina Hager fro TFBSO.

To make jali, a woodworker traces a geometric design onto paper, then cuts thin slivers of walnut or cedar wood with a fine saw. These pieces are matched to the tracing paper to ensure exact sizing before being fixed together with wood glue. The whole piece is then clamped to ensure a strong fit.

Turquoise Mountain has created large-scale jali works for international commissions, including the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, the Connaught Hotel in London, and a private house in upstate New York. In Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan, master woodworker Nasser Mansouri has his own pieces on display. He explains in the exhibition text, “I started working on the restoration of historic buildings in Murad Khani in 2006. I learned so much by studying those buildings: the beautiful cedar wood carving on window frames; the latticework known as jali above doorways; the subtle method by which joints were put together without a nail in sight. The buildings became my teachers.”

Nasser Mansouri © by Tina Hager for TFBSO.

Nasser Mansouri © by Tina Hager for TFBSO.

Tommy Wide

Tommy Wide

Tommy first began working for Turquoise Mountain in Afghanistan in 2007. He holds a D.Phil in Afghan cultural history from Balliol College, Oxford University. He is a fluent Dari and Pashto speaker.
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About Tommy Wide

Tommy first began working for Turquoise Mountain in Afghanistan in 2007. He holds a D.Phil in Afghan cultural history from Balliol College, Oxford University. He is a fluent Dari and Pashto speaker.

2 thoughts on “Turquoise Mountain: Jali Woodwork

  1. DON WHIDDON
    #

    AS A WOODCARVER, I AM MOST INTERESTED IN THE JALI METHOD OF WOODCARVING. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO LOCATE ANY “HOW TO” INFORMATION ABOUT JALI CARVING. CAN YOU RECOMMEND A BOOK OR ARTICLE THAT DETAILS THE PROCEDURE.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

    DON WHIDDON

    1. Joelle Seligson
      #

      Hi Don – Are you in the DC area? If so, you may be interested in coming by to meet the artisans. Learn more by visiting asia.si.edu/events/lectures.asp.

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