I’m no slouch with¬†a needle, and here I am doing a bit of¬† cultural exchange/work experience!¬† As many of the makers work in the shops where their works are sold, this was taken¬†on one of¬†at least¬†two glorious, mind boggling¬†’studio visits’ along the street of the Tentmakers in Cairo, 2007.
But it was instantly clear I am no match for these men who¬†rapidly and¬†rythmically hand stitch (direct applique) small pieces of cotton fabric in gorgeous designs¬†onto canvas weight base fabric to make the Khiamiah – the wall hangings, that traditionally lined desert tents for over 800 years.¬† Today, most people don’t live in tents of course, but in houses with walls that take generally smaller hangings, and so¬†in adaptation to modern conditions more¬†smaller pieces are produced – cushion covers, table mats and runners to¬†wall hangings¬†up to¬†the 1m-1.25m dimensions.¬†¬† You can see some in the background of this photo and the three principal styles – pharaonic,¬†abstract islamic patterns¬†and pictorial¬†scenes are represented¬†in this pic.¬† This small shop/gallery is just¬†one of the 40 or so similar small outlets on the very short Chareh El-Khiamiah, the Tentmaker street in old Cairo.
In my previous post, I showed one of the two large hangings Mike and I bought on our trip in 2007;¬† but we just couldn’t resist another!¬†¬† We also bought¬†this 2m sq. wall hanging which we use as a cover on the bed in our guest bedroom here.¬†¬†The canvas base with all the extra fabric added, imho makes it a bit too heavy to sleep under, so¬†I always suggest to visitors they carefully roll it back and¬†place on a side chair, but I know some don’t mind actually sleeping under it.¬† However, everyone comments on its beauty, and the quality of workmanship is superb:
The¬†Tentmakers¬†who produce this amazing work have their own Facebook page, “The Tentmakers of Chareh El-Khiamiah” where you will find more information on them, and links to current and historic examples of the tentmakers’ art.¬† ¬† An Australian film maker Kim Beamish, is currently filming footage for a full length documentary about these artists, their work, its heritage and cultural importance which¬†is becoming¬†better known beyond Egypt’s borders, but¬†inside of which it is not recognised as having any importance at all – hard to believe as that is.¬† To complete the editing and translations for this important documentary movie, a crowdfunding campaign is currently running to raise the necessary $20,000;¬†and so far over $16,0000¬† has been pledged, but that still leaves almost $4000¬†to raise in just a few days !!¬†¬†¬† If you care that the world should know of such beautiful special work, please¬†allocate at least a few dollars on this crowdfunding site – www.Pozible.com.au/tentmakers/