United Arab Emirates: Emirati and Pakistani artisans learn each other’s embroidery techniques

Sharjah: Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement, enriches the craft heritage of Sharjah and the UAE and strengthens efforts to recontextualize and reinvent Emirati craft traditions with a skills and culture exchange program which aims to develop the skills of Emirati artisans in the unique embroidery techniques of Pakistan.

Rizwan Beyg, the award-winning Pakistani fashion designer, enriches the skills of 20 female artisans at the Irthi Skills Development Center in Kalba by guiding them through the intricate and richly evocative traditions of Ari and Needle embroidery.

Building on the ability of craftsmanship to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers and recognizing its central role in bridging cultural gaps, Irthi’s new development program aims to elevate and sustain indigenous craft heritage. The cross-cultural effort that feeds on the values ​​and bonds forged through craftsmanship also echoes Beyg’s ongoing efforts in preserving cultural heritage through the empowerment of artisans.

Under the new program, Bidwa women artisans will improve their skills in around 30 dynamic embroidery techniques from across Pakistan and receive 250-300 hours of expert-led training over 11 weeks. Pakistani artisans, accompanying Beyg, will be introduced to traditional UAE crafts, namely: Safafah (palm leaf weaving) and Talli (hand-woven braids).

The skills exchange program, which started recently, will end on November 11.

Intense training will allow artisans to develop production-level skills, organizers say
Image Credit: Supplied

Promoting heritage craftsmanship

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said, “Irthi’s new skills exchange program brings us one step closer to realizing the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of Her Highness. [Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and] the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of NAMA, to empower and enrich the capabilities of Emirati artisans and elevate their skills through increased engagement with global craft traditions.

The NAMA Director added, “Craftsmanship is a universal language where the power of personal creativity and expression is essential to elevate the art form. At Irthi, we believe that working in collaboration with artisans in Pakistan will enable Bidwa artisans to introduce surprising and unexpected interpretations that stimulate the creation of a sustainable cultural ecosystem and take the exceptional craft traditions of our rich past in new directions. exciting.

Fashion designer Rizwan Beyg, who previously collaborated with Irthi in 2018, hailed the UAE entity’s efforts to propel traditional UAE craftsmanship into the future. He said, “Contemporating and promoting UAE craftsmanship through craft intervention skills has enabled Irthi to host several successful exhibitions on the global stage and forge collaborations with international brands.”

He added, “During the ongoing skills exchange program, we will impart skills and a wide range of embroidery stitches to enable Emirati artisans to translate this vocabulary into an Emirati imprint using the cultural symbols and motifs that portray their unique identity”.

Two-phase training

During the first phase of the five-week skills exchange program, skilled artisans from Pakistan will train Irthi artisans in the essentials of sewing, facilitate their skills in using unique embroidery tools and improve their understanding of Ari’s basics and the needle. embroidery. The first phase ends on September 9.

This will be followed by a three-week period of intense self-exploration during which artisans will incorporate Pakistani designs and thread patterns into Irthi’s Emirati Talli and Safeefah to explore the synergies between the two cultures and the Arts and crafts. All the works produced by the participants during this period will be evaluated by a team of artisans and experts from Pakistan.

The advanced training of the second phase will take place over six weeks and participants will learn the techniques of creating approximately 20 to 30 types of embroidery, including embellishment with beads, stones and gold and silver threads. money to create the lush patterns and designs associated with the Aari. and needlework. Irthi artisans will also hone their skills applying these embellishments to a multitude of fabrics.

The intense training will enable artisans to develop production-level skills and pave the way for creating sustainable pathways to economic independence.

Crafting Papers

Assessments will be conducted after each phase while the range of embellishments will be professionally documented for future experimentation and to explore opportunities for cross-border partnerships. To empower artisans, the 11-week program will also offer soft skills training to improve teamwork, creative thinking, conflict resolution, communication and time management skills.