House of Artisans: Permanent exhibition at Qasr Al Hosn celebrates UAE crafts

The display, which features works such as weaving and boat-building, has been inaugurated by Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed

A permanent exhibition that honours UAE artisans has launched in Abu Dhabi’s historic Qasr Al Hosn.

The House of Artisans celebrates the relationship between the people of the UAE and the country’s natural resources. The exhibition was inaugurated on Monday by Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed, an Abu Dhabi Executive Council member and chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office.

The House of Artisans will also spearhead a number of initiatives that aim to support UAE artisans, promoting their work and preserving the traditional crafts that are an innate part of the UAE’s cultural identity.

While these skills were developed over time as a direct result of need and demand, they also express a range of artistic sensibilities.

For instance, Bedouin women in the UAE practised a traditional form of weaving called Al Sadu, which uses the wool of sheep, camels and goats and incorporates intricate geometric designs that reflect both social identity as well as the surrounding environment. The practice has been used to create traditional Bait Al Shaar, a form of tent, as well as dividers insider. Camels were also fitted with vibrant and colourful accessories made of Al Sadu.

In 2011 Al Sadu was inscribed on the Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Besides promoting past and contemporary examples of Al Sadu, the House of Artisans will also display works created by Khoos. Practised by men and women, Khoos is a form of weaving that involves braiding palm fronds to form an object. The objects made often serve a functional purpose, such as the circular Surood, on which food is placed, or the fan-like Mahafah, used to cool oneself or fan a flame.

Another traditional craft showcased by the House of Artisans is Talli. A form of embroidery practised by Emirati women, Talli involves using cotton or silk threads intertwined with gold and silver to decorate the collars, sleeves and hems of the kandoura and thawb.

The House of Artisans will also showcase a range of sea crafts, including boat building. The industry played a crucial role in helping develop trade relations across the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The boats, which were used for pearling and fishing expeditions, made up the backbone of the local economy.

Online sessions showing how to make everyday objects, such as bookmarks, will be hosted by House of the Artisans in the near future.

The House of Artisans website already has a colouring book available for download, as well as recipes for several dishes, including the famous khanfaroosh, a saffron and cardamom dessert.

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