Throughout Kuwait and the region, Sadu weaving is a beautiful symbol of both traditional and contemporary culture. The strong geometric designs and rich colors have continued to inspire artists and designers throughout Kuwait and abroad. At the center of the preservation of this weaving tradition is Sadu House (Beit Al Sadu), a cultural center dedicated to bringing awareness to weaving and its importance as an art form. A focused part of the Sadu House’s mission is to reimagine the role of weaving in our contemporary culture, finding ways to collaborate with other artists, organizations, and to connect this weaving tradition to what is going on within the local community. This year, Sadu House is working on an international collaborative project to address these goals.
Kuwait has the honor of being chosen the Islamic Cultural Capital of 2016, for the Arab Region. The Sadu House has been asked by the Ministry of Information, to do something special to celebrate this momentous occasion. Through a collaborative effort with Al Sadu Society weavers, artists, and makers in Kuwait and abroad, we are creating Weaving Stories, an interactive exhibition that focuses on bringing more awareness to the value of the tradition of Sadu cloth as a cultural symbol and the stories that these textiles hold. Each element of the exhibition will create new perspectives on Sadu weaving while encouraging visitors to become active participants in the exhibition.
The symbols that are represented in Sadu cloth reflect the weaver’s lives through many different parts of the weaving. The Bedouin women have an inherent sense of beauty, and have elevated the weaving work from necessity into an art form. The wool they used was dyed in rich vibrant colors to bring life to their subtle desert surroundings. The intricate symbols were created in order to share their ideas, reflections, and talent. The woven cloth was used in their daily life as tents, tent dividers, furnishings, and camel bags, while still reflecting the skill, complexity, and rich Bedouin culture.
One of the most elaborate woven pieces that was a part of the Bedouin environment was the traditional tent divider, Qata, or Ibjad, the term used for the finely ornate Qata, which customarily divided the men’s and women’s sections of the tent. It was the most decorated textile in the tent, and the most impressive achievement of the weavers in the family. These elaborate woven works were the inspiration, conceived and envisaged by Sheikha Altaf Al-Sabah, for the development of Weaving Stories. This exhibition will focus around a large scale collective sculpture inspired by the Bedouin tent divider. For the Weaving Stories exhibition, we are re-interpreting the tent divider by creating a free standing structure that functions as both a frame and loom, a place and space to consider the story the cloth tells of Kuwait. Numerous independent artists and makers will create a unique work that when combined, will become the “cloth” of the tent divider, woven together to form a picture of the many facets of contemporary Kuwaiti culture. Many different art media will come together to reflect the three main attributes of a Bedouin tent divider — in that it is a functional wall, it exhibits creativity, and is a piece of striking visual beauty.
In conjunction with the large installation, we are developing a series of interactive programing to work directly with the community, from children to adults on creating ways to explore their story with Sadu cloth. We are planning to hold workshops for people of different ages, based around the themes in our installation. These activities will be a launching pad to an educational program that will later tour schools in Kuwait to increase the awareness and knowledge of textile arts and their cultural role today. It is vital that the younger generation learn about their heritage in new engaging ways that will motivate and encourage them to appreciate and keep textile traditions alive. We want to inspire them with a fresh perspective that will hopefully perpetuate a love of the arts.
For this exhibition, we are consulting with Lesli Robertson, an artist, Fulbright Specialist, and professor of fibers at the University of North Texas. She is an expert on community based art installations, including work in Uganda, Scotland and throughout the US. Additionally, we will be partnering with Amanda Batson, US based art educator and researcher, who will bring her experience working with museums and elementary schools to develop unique art education based programs. With their help, we want to make this an internationally recognized exhibition that truly tells a story and engages all the visitors who come.
Al Shaheed Park has graciously agreed to host Weaving Stories, opening Nov 7th through 13th. Then, we plan to exhibit elements of this exhibition around Kuwait to be seen by a wider audience. After it takes its tour, we plan to move it to a permanent location to be enjoyed by future generations and visitors to Kuwait.
By Shelby Allaho, Lesli Robertson and Sheikha Altaf Al-Sabah