The UAE’s authentic embroidery skills and handicrafts championed by women under the spotlight
Visitors to the ongoing Sao Paulo International Book Fair with a passion for global cultures are currently exploring age-old practices that embellish the UAE’s unique social fabric.
Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), and the Sharjah Institute for Heritage are hosting a variety of activities at the fair to introduce the international audience to some of the crafts that have been practiced by Emirati women for generations.
These activities which are being held at the Sharjah pavillion, form part of the larger cultural programme dedicated to celebrating Sharjah as the fair’s first-ever guest of honour.
Live demonstrations of craft making
Six artisans from Irthi’s ‘Bidwa’ Social Development Programme and another five from the Emirates Handicraft Centre at the Sharjah Institute for Heritage are giving live demonstrations on a variety of traditional Emirati crafts like Talli (hand-woven braids), Safeefa (palm frond weaving), Henna art, Doll-making, Taboosh and Burqa-making, among others.
Art of Talli embroidery
Irthi is distributing 500 DIY bags to visitors of all age groups interested in trying out Talli making. In each bag is an information booklet, a Talli-making kit containing bobbins, threads, and pins, as well as a traditional Emirati fabric called Sadu.
Reem BinKaram: Heritage, art and empathy are global assets
Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, has highlighted that the Brazil visit is a reflection of the UAE’s and Sharjah’s keenness to strengthen cross-cultural partnerships and share expertise.
“We are here to encourage dialogue between two very distinct yet similar cultures. Heritage, art, empathy are global humanitarian qualities; ones that are strongly endorsed and encouraged by our leaders and our nation. Through Irthi’s participation in Brazil, we seek to spread our wonderful legacy; it is interesting to see people interact with some of the Emirates’ most authentic practices. We also aim to broaden the horizons of female artisans practicing these crafts, empower them by enabling them to gain social recognition and financial security.
“Our participation aligns with the compelling vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Founder and Royal Patron of Irthi, which has taught us that there is no alternative to building bridges of friendship and exchange worldwide.”
Digital introduction to the crafts
Irthi has installed interactive digital booklets across the periphery of their exhibition stand. These digital booklets are a reference point for visitors who want to learn about the history of traditional Emirati crafts of Talli, Safeefah, Henna, and others. The booklet also highlights the efforts and achievements of Irthi Contemporary Crafts in offering traditional Emirati handcrafts in a modern way and integrating them with fashion and contemporary products and designs and includes the profiles of artisans from Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Programme and the Emirates Handicraft Centre at the Sharjah Institute for Heritage.
Mask- and basket-making for children
The basket-making workshop will see the Emirati artisans showcasing their skills in making baskets from the traditional craft of Safeefah by weaving together palm fronds, which the children will then decorate using fabrics and materials from the United Arab Emirates.
Irthi has collaborated with the Sharjah Institute for Heritage to showcase heritage crafts that shed light on Emirati tradition and culture in line with the Council’s dedication to preserving and developing the traditions crafts, and its goals to support and empower women artisans and designers, enabling them to develop their products through strategic partnerships and innovative programmes, to provide a sustainable source of income and access to local and international markets.
The participating craftswomen from Bidwa Social Development Programme are: Aisha Sulaiman Mohamed Al Abd, Shaikha Mohammed Saeed Shabeeb, Amna Ali Ahmed Al Dhanhani, Shaikha Rashid Hassan, Bainah Saif Khalefa Al Sereidi and Fatima Ahmed Mahmoud
Artisans from the Emirates Handicraft Centre include: Moza Abdullah bin Hudhaibah, Najia Hameed Saif Al Muhairi, Moza Rashed Khalifa Sivan, Shamma Eid Bilal Al Tayer and Maryam Rashed bin Khaseef.