In collaboration with artist Khalid Mezaina, Sharjah Art Foundation organised an investigative workshop called Tapestries on Saturday, 24 December 2016 to explore trends in Sharjah’s vibrant Old Souq textile market, located behind Bait Al Serkal in the Arts Area of Sharjah.
The workshop commenced with a tour of Enrico David’s exhibition Fault Work, currently showing at SAF Art Spaces.
Participants focused on David’s six large scale tapestries made from discarded cashmere and wool given to David the artist by Italian design houses. He labouriously coiled these materials together to form tapestries with organic shapes and patterns and a colour palette determined by the materials at hand.
Following the tour, Mezaina presented a brief history of tapestries, reflecting on their role as cultural storytellers. He also discussed methodologies for making tapestries and showed participants some of his work in textile design. Mezaina’s work is supported by his extensive research into the diverse cultures of Deira, the area in Dubai where he grew up. He has translated scenes of everyday life into screen-printed symbols and designs on textiles.
After the presentation, the participants headed out towalked in Sharjah’s Old Souq and Souq Al Saqr to observe trends in textile design and find out more about the origins and production of the fabrics carried by the various shops. Amongst the discoveries were fabrics with UAE landmarks and popular Emirati symbols, such as the Burj Khalifa adorned with flowers, the colours of the UAE flag inside an imitation Van Cleef and Arpels cloverluxury brand pattern, popular local beverage Vimto bottles with stripes and flowers and many more fabrics that catered to local tastes.
In answer to participants’ queries about the design origins of the textiles, most shopkeepers mentioned that the fabrics were made in Indonesia, whilst designs were put together by suppliers. Further topics of discussion between participants and shopkeepers centred on popular taste, consumer trends, cultural appropriation and research methodologies used (or not!) in the designs.
In addition to their visits to fabric shops, participants visited tailor shops in the neighbourhood, collecting bundles of scrap fabric in all shapes, colours and patterns – again clear indicators of consumer tastes. Then, like Enrico David, participants coiled fabrics together to create their own tapestries, each one recounting a personal story of #safneighbourhood fabrics.
Khalid Mezaina is currently pursuing an MFA in textile design at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, US.