A week of teaching in Abu Dhabi…

It’s been a l-o-n-g time since my last post! I’m really sorry for the delay, but I’m blaming it on the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland! We were originally meant to leave for Abu Dhabi on Friday, 16th of April. Unfortunately, our trip was delayed by one week, due to the chaos caused by the volcanic ash. This meant that we delivered our Abu Dhabi workshops last week instead of two weeks ago, as originally planned. I arrived back in London last Friday, and have spent the weekend resting after an amazing, yet exhasusting trip!

So what were we doing in Abu Dhabi? Three teachers from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (including myself) have been contracted to deliever a series of Islamic arts workshops at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. The week-long classes are to take place in April, June and July 2010, and will coincide with an exhibition of nomadic and urban textiles being held at the Palace. Our workshops aim to teach students about traditional design principles as seen in the textiles, by introducing participants to principles of geometric and floral design.
For anyone who happens to be in Abu Dhabi, and hasn’t yet seen the exhibition… go see it! I highly recommed this! Every single piece is an absolute stunner! Walking through the exhibition, the visitor is firstly greeted by the vibrant reds, purples, ochres, and greens of the Central Asian nomadic pieces. These include traditional garments, saddle cloths and wall hangings embellished with silk on a wool background. The predominant motifs are sunburst-like roundels, reminiscient of blooming flowers and 6 and 8-fold geometric motifs. What I like about these pieces is the order and symmetry of the geometric pattern, balanced with the organic and spontaneous hand-crafted quality of each textile. Any discrepancies in colour or design simply serve to make the garments more beautiful and interesting on the eye. I would love to know more about the craftsmen and women who made them.

Further into the exhibition space, the designs reveal greater geometric construction as the textiles also become more heavily embellished. In the transitional gallery, many of the susani (large scale embroidery pieces) were made by teams of artisans, for commercial purposes. It is here that the exhibition moves from nomadic to more urban examples. There is a geographic change too, as the focus shifts from Central Asia to North Africa. The palette becomes more monochomatic as vibrant sunburst reds and ochres gradually give way to cool and austere whites and blues. Some of my favourite pieces in the latter part of the exhibition included a set of delicately woven white curtains heavily emroidered in indigo-blue silk. The body of the embroidery sat at the bottom of the textile, pulling the weight of the fabric downwards, allowing it to hang beautifully. The transparency of the weave was so fine that the geometric embellishments created patterns in the shadows on the wall behind.  

I so much wish that I could post up some images from the exhibition, but photography of the textiles was not allowed. I guess this means you’ll just have to try and see in yourself!

Anyone interested in joining us in June / July can read more about the workshops here: 
Our classes consisted of 3 groups: 1) a class of adults who attended 5 morning sessions, each session consisting of 2 hours. 2) an afternoon drop-in workshop for families (2 hours). 3) an evening drop-in workshop for families (also 2 hours). Below is a photo from one of the adult workshops:
We were very impressed by the quality of work from both the children and adults. I have to admit that I was so busy during the workshops, it was very difficult to stop and take photos. Below are a few examples of student’s work, but I will post some more up as soon as I’m able to get a hold of more pictures! 
 Work in progress. Each student was invited to contribute one of their designs to a group panel. 

Detail from the group panel. The roundel on the left was designed and painted by an 
8-year old girl. This was her first time using watercolours!
…and finally, here’s a pic of me teaching!  A little blurry, I know, but the light wasn’t so great (hence the desk lamps).
This entry was posted in Abu Dhabi, Islamic Art Courses, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, textiles. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A week of teaching in Abu Dhabi…

  1. The Orange Tree says:

    Wow, v v cool, and inspirational :) Cant wait to join you on one of these exciting journies inshallah. And I may need a sprinkling of your artistic expertise sometime soon…I'll be in touch.

    And also our post paris date!!

  2. Ayesha Gamiet says:

    Hello Orange Tree! Sorry for the late reply to this one, it's been a busy time. Glad you liked the post :) Abu Dhabi has been a great project, and there are more trips to come, insh'Allah. It would be great to catch up with you. Hope all is well!

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