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The Covid facemasks that support people living in conflict zones

Ukraine, Somalia, and Colombia may be different in climate and culture, but they share a history of conflict and trauma. Now, artisans from all three nations are creating face masks in a project designed to support their fragile livelihoods.

Ishkar It is a social enterprise that defends artisans in places affected by war. His peace masks feature three designs: a rainbow pattern made in eastern Ukraine (main image); one in traditional Somali Alindi fabric made in Mogadishu; and a design created by Ebera Neka, a cooperative created by the Emberá Katío indigenous community in Tierralta, Colombia.

The latter presents symbols associated with the traditional medicine of the region, and the masks are made by Ciro Gómez, a former FARC combatant who trained and set up his own manufacturing company, where he now employs 17 people.

“For many people, perceptions of places like Afghanistan, Mali, Yemen or Iraq are defined by conflict over culture, and their beauty and art have been lost behind the headlines,” explained Flore de Taisne, who founded Ishkar with Edmund le Brun in 2016.

The couple met in Afghanistan and decided to establish a social enterprise that would highlight handicrafts that are at risk of being forgotten. Since its beginnings as an online and physical store, Ishkar has expanded to also carry out events, photography, courses and, since 2019, guided trips around the world.

Everything that social enterprise does, le Brun said, whether it’s developing a jewelry collection with a goldsmith in Kabul or taking a photographic tour of Pakistan, is a bid to tell “richer, more nuanced and celebratory stories.”

Lead Image: Valentina Karpova

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