If you walked through Najib’s workshop on an average day, accompanied by the whine of his table saw and the scent of wood shavings, you might not suspect that his most challenging work hangs in important buildings across the country. He’s become known for his intricately carved wooden seals–the kind that marks power and authority–for at least one former president and many local governments. His work is amazing.
Perhaps not what you might expect from someone whose parents first fled Afghanistan when he was 2-years-old. Najib wasn’t welcome in the education system as a child because he was a refugee, so taught himself English “because that was the only thing the government could not control to stop it.” He started working at age 11 and dedicated himself to working with a wood carver at age 13 when he discovered that he enjoyed designing with wood. And today, he’s a master woodworker.
Najib’s whole life has been one of defying expectations and changing the story.
After returning to Afghanistan, Najib found he had great skills, but no customers. “The economy is not good in Afghanistan. Nobody wants luxury stuff like wood carving…everybody is looking for food.” He couldn’t work with the local government, because he didn’t want to be part of a system of corruption. Instead, to support his family Najib began to work with the US military, providing translation and teaching his American colleagues about the nuances of the local culture. It was a good job until it wasn’t.
Translating for the US military made a target out of Najib and his family. His father was attacked, and he and his family had to flee Afghanistan a second time—this time to the United States.
Najib started again with more life experience, a dose of hope, and some carving tools he’d made himself. After a lot of hard work, he eventually built up a business and a reputation for making beautiful things. It’s not every day that he gets called to make a wooden seal for a seat of power though. He needed to invest time in making items that would fit into all kinds of homes.
That’s where our art print hangers enter the story. We partner with Najib to offer print hangers through our shop in four colorways. We love partnering with Najib because we believe in supporting skilled artisans. But we also love partnering with him because he creates simple, beautiful products that can help anyone make a room feel more welcoming—whether it’s been home for generations, or like Najib and so many of our friends, you’re starting from scratch all over again.