as in land (-istan) of the Bling.
Fun, sassy, one of a kind, handmade gold jewellery.
From Afghanistan, with love.
Growing up between the US, Russia and Afghanistan exposed me to a wide array of cultural experiences that have shaped my vision as a human being and as an artist. My personal aesthetic has always been a distinct melange of influences.
My taste in jewellery has always been big and bold; gold hoops, sexy chokers, hands laden with rings. Whenever I sit down to design new work, my aim is to create unique jewellery that’s fun, outrageous, campy and kitschy, but also reflects my pride in the many facets of my upbringing as an Afghan, and my lived experience in Afghanistan, as well as encoring people to take pride in their own cultural heritage, whatever that heritage may be.
It’s also about changing the narrative of my country- there are too many lies, too much misinformation, too many stereotypes and too much war propaganda in the gaze of the global mainstream media that most non-Afghan folks don’t even know what we are all about. Welcome! We are here to celebrate.
I'd peruse various open air markets and shopping districts in numerous cities typically run by fellow PoCs and fall in love with the array of designs I saw there. They weren't your boring, standard pieces, they had character and charisma. I wanted a choker like the ones we’d haggle for in those inner-city stalls, (you know the ones) but with the words Allah Akbar instead of crosses. I wanted affordable hoops like the $1 dollar door knockers I wore daily, but without having to buy a new pair every other month because they broke or rusted or turned my skin green. No matter where I was, I could never quite find exactly what I wanted to wear. I wanted sass, I wanted badassery, I wanted heritage, I wanted pride, I wanted chic yet fun, I wanted statement pieces and everyday jewellery, I wanted playful, sexy, conversation starters that reflected and celebrated the experiences of marginalised peoples globally. I also wanted jewellery that was long-lasting, durable, easy on the skin. I wanted it all without sacrificing quality *or* affordability* and I wasn't seeing anything that fit the bill, so I decided to make it myself.
(*I know that paying double digits for hoops is a little steep but I believe using hypoallergenic, precious metals is a necessity for sustainable, long lasting jewellery)
With Blingistan, I hope to strike a balance between the charm of affordable jewellery, with the quality of the pricier stuff. To strike this balance, I plate all my 92.5 sterling silver pieces in 24k gold, avoiding cheaper metals that age more quickly and can irritate sensitive skin while keeping the prices more affordable than solid gold and silver jewellery. After all, ornamental gold jewellery is a treasured part of many cultures around the world! All gold everything!
When I first started making jewellery, I was 15 years old, living in Kabul. I found so many resources there that helped make my visions a reality. I couldn't have guessed back then that over a decade later I would be still be at it, with an ever growing community of loyal customers whose love and support energises me daily.
Blingistan's models are regular people, of all shapes, sizes, genders and backgrounds. I think it is important that you see how this jewellery looks on real people and I encourage my models to tell us about themselves and not just be expressionless vehicles for merchandise. I want my work to help people feel more comfortable in their own skin, be more proud of themselves, embrace the authentic beauty of their humanity.
We are the rebellious, the freaks, the descendants of immigrants, refugees, the PoC, the politically conscious, the ones who want to express ourselves in all of our complexities with what we wear and yet often still struggle to find jewellery and apparel that does just that. As Blingistan grows, I hope it continues to fill that void, to tell those stories as of yet still untold.
Blingistan is made for the entire oppressed global proletariat. You do NOT need to be Afghan to wear any of this. Actually, some of the items I have made specifically because I think people outside of Afghanistan and it’s diaspora, need to be aware of. One example, our @daughersofwitches collaboration, is all about celebrating Intersectional Feminism, something unfortunately, we don’t see often in the West.
For the marginalised and proud: Nothing makes me happier than seeing the look on my Latinx sister’s faces when they see my Immigrant double knuckle ring and feel so seen. Or the Egyptian mama laughing her ass off when she tries on the Halal shorts. Or when my necklaces have been stacked on each other by my fierce Queens in drag shows. There is something here for everyone. You can find more information about cultural appreciation (vs. cultural appropriation) on our Instagram, or feel free to slide into reach out with any questions!
Blingistan is dedicated to giving back, and a percentage of profits will be donated to various mutual aid funds in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Shamayel, founder and designer of Blingistan, wearing the Kabul House Essential Barb Wire Hoop earrings.