For my burqa project, I wanted to understand the significance of the color blue in Islamic tradition, since it is the most common color of burqa worn by women in Afghanistan. It is not a coincidence that mosques are well-known for their beautiful blue tiles and mosaics, and that the Afghan burqa is also a sky blue color.

It is commonly known that green is the sacred color of Islam. It is used for the bindings of the Qur’an (the Muslim Holy Book) and in the silken covers of the Sufi saints. It has been suggested that green (and white) is revered because it was worn by Muhammad, and it also symbolizes life and nature. When finally reaching paradise in the afterlife, the Qur’an states, “ornaments shall be given to them therein of bracelets of gold, and they shall wear green robes of fine silk and thick silk brocade interwoven with gold, (18:31)” and they will be “Reclining on green cushions and beautiful carpets (55:76).” In Islamic culture, green and gold are the colors of paradise, and green represents the perfect faith. [source]

Blue is also an important color in Islamic tradition, and is a frequently used color in mosques. In the Middle East, blue is a protective color and it can be found coloring many of the most famous “Blue Mosques” which are found in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Armenia, etc. One of the most famous of these is located in Istanbul, Turkey. In Jihadi imagery, blue is most often used to evoke a sense of hope and heavenly paradise. In Saudi Arabia, blue and green stained glass is used in the more modern mosque designs while in the deserts of Egypt, some mosques are painted completely blue or green.

Historically, there is an idea embedded in Islamic culture associated with certain turquoise and bright shades of blue guarding against the “evil eye“. Blue is sometimes painted on the shutters of houses to protect against the evil eye and ward off the evil eye. And sometimes, even though the use of protective amulets and charms is forbidden in Islam because it is considered a form of idolatry, the use of protective objects is still commonly seen among Muslims. These objects contain the color blue, such as beads or charms that are worn by children and animals. [source]

Knowing this information, I have decided to definitely keep my burqa design the color blue, with perhaps some copper or silver added as accent colors.

Read about the background and inspiration for this project in previous blog posts:

1. Research & Concept Development
2. Materials and Testing
3. Why Blue Color?
4. Sewing Pattern
5. Face Mesh Weaving
6. Fashion Hacking the Afghan Burqa


6 Responses to “Burqa – Why Blue?”  

  1. 1 Delina Valdez

    Hi Suzan,

    I stumbled on your website this morning and was inspired by your interpretation of the ‘Burqa’. I have searched for sites for ornaments or symbols that are significant to this country, but I could not find much information. I hope you could share a link on where I could find these elements as well as inspiring quotes/poetry that are significant to the Afghan people.

    I am currently working on a school project-to design an emergency housing for displaced people in war-torn regions.
    My concept was inspired by ‘Kite flying’. Since you have lived in this country, I was wondering if you could share some insights on how a ‘kite’ represents or symbolizes to women of Afghanistan.

    What would be the sensory reaction to this shape?
    Does it give them a sense of freedom and security when they see this form?

    I have also decided to use the color green as it is associated with hope and prosperity.

    What are your thoughts?

    Delina

  2. 2 suzkita

    Hi Delina,

    You have asked many great questions! I will attempt to answer what I can, and while I lived in Afghanistan for a year and have many Afghan friends, I am by no means an expert on the culture and I think it would be best to seek the answers to your questions from Afghan people.

    Afghans love the Sufi poet, Rumi, who was born in northern Afghanistan and who wrote thousands of beautiful poems, some of which were accompanied by music. Afghans also enjoy listening to instrumental music played on the rhubab (rabab) and tabla. Ghazal is a type of classic musical art form in Afghan culture.

    Your school project sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. Kite flying is a wonderful tradition in Afghan culture, as Afghans love to play sports of all kinds, however I would not recommend this activity or symbol for Afghan women. It is traditionally an activity done by males in Afghanistan, and it can be dangerous sometimes chasing after fallen kites, bleeding hands on the sharp wires lined with bits of glass, and climbing up trees and rooftops to sight the kites. Read more about kite flying here explained by the Afghanistan Relief Organization: http://www.afghanrelief.org/about-afghanistan/afghan-kite-flying-101. For emergency housing for displaced women, I might suggest designing comfortable rooms with beautiful cushions to sit on the floor, tea drinking, and beautiful decorations and music. For more ideas, contact someone who works with the women’s shelters in Kabul at Women for Afghan Women: http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/index.php/our-programs/womens-shelters. Good luck with your project!!

  3. 3 Malin

    Thank You for this post. It was very informative!
    All the best,
    Malin

  4. 4 suzkita

    Hi Malin,
    I read your blog about the Bread Exchange — I love your commitment to discovering new things! I saw your stories about exchanging bread in Kabul. I would love to know how you decided to visit Afghanistan.
    Cheers,
    Suzanne

  5. 5 Malin

    Hi Suzanne,
    Thank you for your kind words. There were many reasons for my trip to Kabul. I have wanted to go for a long time. My boyfriend is a war correspondent and I often feel like media is not painting a complete picture. He tells me beautiful stories about the country and about its people.
    Of course, I am very aware there are never a complete picture, but I feel that the image I get of Afghanistan in the media is so limited to the war that I have a hard time to connect. And the importance of connecting is large.

    I am currently writing a book about the Bread Exchange project and I am considering to have Kabul take part as the trip ended up being such a eye opener for myself.

    On top of that Bread, over which I connect with people on my blog, plays a major role in Afghanistan. It also showed to be an excellent door opener for me to connect with women. I was baking daily. Bread has an emotional value that we all understand regardless of class, cultural heritage or religion.

    That was in short why I went to Afghanistan. Feel free to send me an email. I would like to let you know when the book is ready too. It will come out in the US.
    Kindest regards,
    Malin

  6. 6 suzkita

    Hi Malin,

    Well, you certainly picked a good country to visit about bread! Afghan culture has a long history of bread making and culinary specialties unique to its region. Like many peoples, bread is a source of pride and a staple to every Afghan meal. Personally I love the palpable texture of the naanee afghani made from the tandoor oven. You cannot get that sensorial experience anywhere else–yumm.

    I look forward to seeing your book. When I lived in Afghanistan in 2005, I also thought of one day publishing my writings about my experience living there, and in particular the stories about how I connected with Afghan women, built friendships, and learned valuable life lessons that I will always hold very near to my heart. Good luck with your journey!

    Suzanne

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