Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bedouin Al Sadu Weaving in Kuwait, Middle East

I was absolutely gutted when I realised I had missed this artists talk at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff. Having pretty much set my mind on specializing in weaving and having an avid interest in the culture and traditional crafts of other countries, this talk would have most definitely been right up my street. In contrast to the ongoing contemporary weave exhibition- Warp and Weft, this talk highlighted the importance of preserving traditional weave practises and techniques. I asked for a sheet accompanying the talk with a bit of background information.

Al Sadu is an ancient Bedouin tribal weaving artform. Its broadest linguistic identity is rhythmically linked to poetry, memory, the weaving practise, the extension of the hand, and the graceful moving pace of a camel. During my two-week weave block, I too felt a therapeutic connection between the body and the construction of cloth.

Al Sadu weaving conveys the Bedouin’s rich heritage and instinctive awareness of natural beauty, with patterns and designs messaging the nomadic lifestyle, the desert environment, and the emphasis of symmetry and balance due to the making process. It is incredible to learn that nothing is written down or recorded. Due to widespread illiteracy of Bedouin nomadic tribespeople, all motifs, patterns and associated symbolism are memorise and passed from generation to generation, by word of mouth and example. This use of motifs and symbolism resonates that of the Imperial Chinese Robes at the V&A. I am eager to explore whether symbolism on clothing holds any relevance to the clothes of today.

The talk discussed the findings of a six year study in Kuwait, in collaboration with Al Sadu Weaving Society, Sadu House Museum, Bedouin master-weavers, academics, poets and social anthropologists. The oral history of a dwindling number of master-weavers is video-recorded and documented to preserve the declining memory, practice and awareness, and to prevent further loss.

The talk focused on the interpretation of the woven ‘shajarah’ or central tent divide, establishing the wealth of meaning and communication from the codes or pictographic language. Quoted from recorded interviews, the talk discussed whether contemporary weavers are disinterested in the names assigned to the overall design composition, but interested in the names and meaning of single motifs or components of motifs, or if names and definitions are personal testimony only to the weaver who created them, or whether the language of Al Sadu has been lost in modern-day Kuwait, appreciated only for its traditional aesthetic values.

My only reservation about specializing in the field of weave is that I fear it may prove to be a little restrictive as it is confined to within the boundaries of a loom. However, the fact that weave has been a prime craft of many cultures and that it still astonishes with its contemporary interpretations to this day makes me feel assured that it offers numerous prospects.

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