Saeeda Etebari

Turquoise Mountain Institute graduate

I can lose myself for hours . . .

I was born in a refugee camp in Peshawar in Pakistan. The conditions were not good, and I became seriously sick during the first week of my life. I was diagnosed with cerebral meningitis. Due to the illness, I couldn’t walk for the first three years of my life, and I lost my hearing, too. For ten or fifteen years, my parents tried hard to find a cure for my hearing loss, but nothing worked.

While I was growing up, I watched my older brother and sister go to school. Then I watched my younger brothers and sisters go to school. I wanted so badly to go to school as well, but I spent most of my time drawing at home. Eventually my dad found a school for the deaf where I could enroll.

After the fall of the Taliban, our family returned to Kabul. I finished high school and even started teaching at the same school, but I did not find teaching as rewarding as I had hoped.

Then my brother suggested I study a craft instead, so I enrolled in the Turquoise Mountain Institute. I chose jewelry because I love the focus and skill that making jewelry requires. You need to be really precise and really patient.

I can lose myself for hours when I’m working on a delicate piece. The more intricate the work, the more I enjoy it.

Designing a piece that somebody will buy and wear is a special experience for me. I love making a connection with someone through a shared sense of beauty.

Saeeda Etebari





The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.