- Artist Saadane Afif
- Title Heritages
- Date 2013
- Medium Thirty arish chairs and text
- Dimensions Variable
- Credit Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation
In 1974, Italian designer Enzo Mari published 'Proposta per un’ autoprogettazione' (Proposal for Self-Design), a spiral-bound booklet containing instructions for building basic chairs, tables and shelves. He described his plans as 'a project for making easy-to-assemble furniture using rough boards and nails. An elementary technique to teach anyone to look at present production with a critical eye.' Mari’s ideas of do-it-yourself production, using local and inexpensive materials, resonate ever more strongly today.
On my first visit to Sharjah, I was struck by the beautiful furniture made out of arish, or palm leaves. This age-old technique is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula, where palm trees flourish; it is sometimes referred to as the bamboo of Arabia. Like the wood planks in Mari’s boxy chairs, the fronds have a huge influence on the objects’ designs.
I asked an arish furniture company in Sharjah to follow Mari’s instructions as closely as possible, but replacing wood with palm leaves. Part of my interest is in seeing what modifications are necessary. Accompanying the resulting furniture is the transcribed text of an interview I conducted with an arish carpenter.
The title of this project is Heritages; the plural form underlines the different layers present, since the project materialises a bridge between tradition and modernity in the context of the United Arab Emirates today.