Thank you Munira! A Thanksgiving letter.

Thank you Munira! A Thanksgiving letter.

This holiday season, I’m trying to focus less on the outside commercial world and more on gratitude, relationships, and community. Our artist partners are the heart of HoonArts. And I am so grateful for your partnership over the years.

This holiday season, I want to acknowledge my gratitude personally and publicly to you, the amazing artists who have introduced me and the larger HoonArts community to the magical culture of the Silk Road.

This week, I’m starting with Munira Akilova, our suzani embroidery master from Khujand, Tajikistan. Munira is the the first practicing artist in Central Asia that entered my life. She's the foundation on which the HoonArts mission is built.

Munira Akilova, Award-Winning Suzani Embroidery Artist, Consultant and Entrepreneur

Dearest Munira,

Thank you for your friendship and collaboration over the years. There are so many profound experiences behind that simple statement. The only way I can think of to acknowledge that is to identify some of the many specific ways in which you have enriched my life and the lives of the HoonArts community. So here goes.

  1. Thank you, Munira, for being willing to communicate by email with a total stranger back in January 2015, when I first reached out to you. You didn’t know me, and had no reason to trust me, but you were willing to start a conversation. That was the beginning of my love affair with Central Asia.
  2. Thank you, Munira, for introducing me to my first DM app—Viber, back in 2015. That was the beginning of my tech journey as a “boomer.”
  3. Thank you, Munira, for being willing to ask for honest feedback from me and my customers, and then incorporate that feedback when and if it made sense for you and your own passions as an artist and a social impact leader.

  4. Thank you, Munira, for sharing so many photos and stories with me over the years. Your photos and stories have helped educate me, and allowed me to help introduce people in the West to the authentic Silk Road culture.

  5. Thank you, Munira, for “catching me” at the end of a long taxi ride from Dushanbe to Panjakent in October 2015, when I made my first trip to Tajikistan, and welcoming me into your home, your family and your life.
  6. Thank you, Munira, for sharing your children with me during that first trip to Tajikistan, when they were only 14 and 6 years old. I will never forget learning to count to 10 in Tajik with Faridun, and eating the many meals that Farida prepared for my husband and me while you were busy trying to keep all your other balls in the air. I’ll never forget the laugher we enjoyed staying at your home, even without a common language.
  7. Thank you, Munira, for inviting me to share dinner with your extended family, so I could have another taste of authentic Tajik culture, and a little better understanding of how you came to be the person you are today.

    Munira's Family in Khujand (2015)

  8. Thank you, Munira, for introducing me to the Armughon Handicrafts teams and showing me in person the magical community relationship you have helped build with these teams.

    Armughon Handicrafts-Panjakent (2015)

    Back in Panjakent (2022)

  9. Thank you, Munira, for taking me to meet and chat with other artists who might be considered your competitors, so I could learn more about the world of traditional arts in Tajikistan.
  10. Thank you, Munira, for trusting me with me some of your personal challenges and tragedies, like the loss of both your parents since we first met. That gave me the courage to share some of my own challenges and sorrows.
  11. Thank you, Munira, for being willing to partner with me to experiment with exhibiting at the Las Vegas Market tradeshow—not once, but twice! Thank you for the enormous time and energy you invested in creating new designs and new collections of home décor and bags for the American market.

    Las Vegas Trade Show—Collection of Bags Designed by Munira (Third Trade Show Collection for HoonArts)

  12. Thank you, Munira, for partnering with me on our Suzani-Stitch-Along on Facebook, and sharing your enormous knowledge on suzani in the process.

  13. Thank you, Munira, for having the courage to overcome your reluctance to be on camera and participate in our first live HoonArts experience online—the original AirBnb experience launched during the pandemic.

  14. Thank you, Munira, for being willing to star in most of our live online experiences, including our in-depth Design Encounter program—at a time when your schedule was overwhelming, you were dealing many family and personal challenges, you were working away from home during the week, and you had to go on camera at 9:00 pm your time after an already overwhelming day.

  15. Thank you, Munira, for working with me to experiment on custom design work, with no guarantee of success.

  16. Thank you, Munira, for visiting Albuquerque after the end of your International Visitors Leadership Program in 2022 and sharing your knowledge and your joy through master classes and public programs here.

  17. Thank you, Munira, for inspiring me to overcome my own fear and take my first hot air balloon ride in April 2022.

  18. Thank you, Munira, for always asking about my family—not just as a token, but out of genuine interest and caring.
  19. Thank you, Munira, for always being an inspiration to me to keep going when I have gotten discouraged over the years—like during the pandemic when sales plummeted and still haven’t recovered.
  20. Thank you, Munira, for sharing your passion for cultural heritage preservation and helping me to communicate that passion to the HoonArts community.

  21. Thank you, Munira, for being our “artist-on-the-tour” during our first HoonArts tour to Central Asia in 2022, and for the multitude of hours behind the scenes helping put that tour together.

  22. Thank you, Munira, for taking me to Seven Lakes in 2015 and Madm village in 2022 and allowing me to share the authentic beauty, challenge and joy of rural life in Tajikistan.

    Seven Lakes (2015)

    Madm Village (2022)

  23. Thank you, Munira, for taking us on an evening walk in Khujand and sharing your favorite ice cream stand with us.

  24. Thank you, Munira, for introducing me to the USAID representatives in Turkmenistan who put together an artisan training program, which led to my live participation in that program.
  25. Thank you, Munira, for helping to plan our 2024 Silk Road Cultural Discovery Tour and agreeing once again to be our “artist-on-the-tour.”

  26. Thank you, Munira, for never getting impatient with me, when I keep sending you new items and new projects when you have thousands of other things to worry about.
  27. Thank you, Munira, for all you do for artists and cultural heritage preservation in Tajikistan and beyond. Your work is truly making a difference in the world, today and for the future that we cannot even see yet.
  28. Thank you, Munira, for trusting me to share your work and your stories.
  29. Thank you, Munira, for just being who you are. You are my beloved Tajik daughter!

There are so many more items I could add. I hope this list helps you see that your contribution and your collaboration matter to me and to the world!




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