I am sitting in my hotel room overlooking the bay towards the old Kuwait City. Through the heat haze and the dust raised by the building works in the city, mingled with the higher dust raised by troops in the desert, I can see the murky outlines of some stunning high rise buildings. To the far right, on an edge where the land peaks before scalloping back into another sweeping bay, sit the iconic Kuwait Towers – the water towers which are seen on TV whenever Kuwait appears on the news. I hope to visit them today and to be able to post some images. They are beautiful with circular mosaic patterns in blues and whites. These towers used to be the tallest construction in Kuwait, with other buildings restricted to no more than 4 or 5 levels. That has now changed. The Liberation Tower, a communications building erected after the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, topped the height stakes for a short while and that can also be seen from my window. However, it has now been overtaken by office buildings and the latest under construction which winds around its centre. Once complete, this building which is being clad in glass will be a very dramatic presence in the business centre of Kuwait.
It is wonderful to be here, and a bit of a relief! With the big freeze in Europe, so many flights were cancelled that I nearly didn’t make it at all. Happily, after 24 hours of delays, lots of queues and many phone calls to try to re-route, I managed to catch a flight to Bahrain and then a connection on to Kuwait.
My hosts, the Kuwait Textile Arts Association, and especially Patricia Redding who is looking after me, are wonderful people. The Kuwait Textile Arts Association, which is under the auspices of Al Sadu House, promotes the knowledge and skills of textile related arts in Kuwait and the Gulf region, and they frequently have visiting tutors and lecturers from around the world. For example, next month, they have a speaker from Mali talking about Mali textiles. They are also in the beginning stages of organising a textiles tour to China!
The group is a multicultural non profit organisation and was established under the patronage of Sheikha Altaf Al Salem Al Sabah in October 1994. The aim to nurture and promote the art and craft of textiles and fibre arts, and to facilitate sharing and exchanging of ideas, knowledge and skills in Kuwait and the Gulf Region. Membership is open to any person interested in furtheringtheir knowledge of the world of textiles. If anyone reading this blog is interested in joining, you can contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday morning, I led a Colour and Texture Workshop and met a diverse group of ladies, from countries across Europe, Canada, India, and Kuwait. English is the language of communication (thankfully for me) and the workshop was held in the Al Sadu House, a beautiful old-style family house near to the Parliament Building in Kuwait City, which was re-opened in January 2007 after extensive renovations. Al Sadu means weaving in Bedouin, and the house holds an interpretive exhibition about weaving in Kuwait, including the nomadic Bedouin weaving and urban weaving for bisht making. A weaving co-operative has been set up and visitors may see and learn the skills involved in Sadu weaving. There are several warps set up in one room for weavers to weave. Goods are sold in the shop, and courses in textiles are held. Sadu House has instigated a programme for schools to help children learn about the weaving heritage of Kuwait. There is also a lovely library with many Arabic, English and French books on textiles, including Peter Collingwood’s ‘The Makers Hand’, which was like seeing an old friend! I have taken a few images but I hope to go back today and take some more to share with you, but photographs are not usually permitted at Al Sadu, so my images will be subject to Sadu House copyright.
Last night I gave a talk in the central courtyard of Al Sadu House about the history and development of jacquard weaving, and told the story of my jacquard power loom. There was a full auditorium and the audience was wonderfully attentive. It was really strange to me to start my talk, only to be faced with some photographers standing right in front of everyone, snapping away! If this is a tiny taste of paparazzi, then it’s just as well I’ll never be famous!!! It was really unnerving, but I carried on, chatting away as if they weren’t there. Apparently, this is quite normal, but it was a new experience for me. One incredible follow-on to my story of Hattie is that one of my audience was at one time a lecturer in Constructed Textiles at Heriot Watt University in Galashiels, where Hattie lived before coming to me, and she had woven on Hattie! What are the odds of that – travelling so far to find, quite by chance, someone who actually knew my loom up close and personal from the UK!
I now have two days to discover more of Kuwait City, in the company of Patricia. She comes from northern England but has been in Kuwait for many years so is an excellent tour guide! Tomorrow, I hope to put up images from today’s sight seeing along with more of an explanation of Al Sadu weaving in Kuwait.