Culture Weekly

Crafting tradition

March 3- March 9, 2021

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Crafting tradition

Artist and designer Nathaly Jung, who believes in honouring traditional crafts, continues to highlight the island’s heritage and culture by collaborating with creatives from across the kingdom, writes Mai Al Khatib-Camille.

The French-German former costume and film set designer’s journey began with a ‘couch-cushion-collab’ with Egyptian artist Mohamed Sharkawy and that lead to the launch of her Yalla Habibi design company.

The colourful collection not only had a story to tell but also captured the attention of others, which is what she had hoped for.

“When I first arrived in Bahrain in 2009, I spent a lot of time at Al Riwaq Art Gallery and became good friends with various artists including Mohamed,” explained the former fashion magazine stylist.

“We often talked about the art scene in Bahrain and wondered why art seemed to be intimidating for many people here.

“I loved Mohamed’s beautiful art work and saw a naive quality to it that inspired me to transpose it into embroidery.

“It was my first collaboration and the beginning of Yalla Habibi. My aim is to support and promote traditional crafts.”

The first slogan for Yalla Habibi was ‘Art for your Couch’ as she saw it as a way to make art more accessible to all – by transposing artworks on cushions. Her account on Instagram features cushions, boxes, pouches, and trays created by her collaborations.

“I also saw my designs as a way to promote and support the weavers of Bani Jamra and other local traditional crafts,” said Nathaly who lives in Umm Al Hassam.

“I have been collaborating with the textile weavers of Bani Jamra for more than six years and their beautiful handwoven textiles have been an essential part of each annual collection.

“I’ve mainly collaborated with Saleh Al Jamri, a master weaver, over the years. I also worked on a project with the Awal Women Society, whose vocation has been to preserve the traditional silver thread embroidery, Al Naqda.

“Under the guidance of Aysha Mattar, the Awal Women Society empowers women while training them in this traditional craft and giving them an income.

“Together, we created two cushions that serve as an archive of the various traditional patterns and names of these patterns in traditional Al Naqda embroidery.”

Nathaly, whose preferred medium is embroidery art, has also collaborated with other local artists including Ahmed Anan, Faika Al Hassan and Mai Almoataz to name a few and has worked with interior designers on various custom projects and giveaways as well.

She has also helped highlight the work of Syrian artisans in Damascus for more than four years.

“They do the most exquisite work of inlaid mother

-of-pearl in wood,” she added. “My hope is that people re-discover traditional crafts through contemporary and modern interpretations.

“I’m so thrilled to see more and more people being interested in these crafts and the Bahraini culture and heritage. It really means a lot to me.

“I think heritage and culture are tightly linked with people’s identity which is why I feel it is so important to be connected to these traditional crafts and to honour them, making them part of our homes and daily lives.”

She is currently working on a new jewellery collection with Tiny Om for Ramadan and she is also collaborating with Scottish textile artist Mhairi Boyle on a project that is near and dear to her heart.

“My upcoming project that has been really challenged by this pandemic is the embroidered jalabiyas made in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan,” said Nathaly, who studied international communication in Paris. “Mhairi and I designed simple jalabiya patterns and we were going to send them to the Jerash charity ‘Hopes for Women in Education’ to embroider specific Palestinian patterns. Hopefully, this project will see the light during Ramadan this year.

“The collaborative nature of my work is what brings me joy. Bringing ideas together from people with different backgrounds, skills and cultures makes a project so much richer.”

Also, last year the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities asked her to re-design and curate the gift shop at Qal’at Al Bahrain. She was thrilled to give a platform to like-minded artists and designers that collaborate with local craftsmen.

Nathaly, who finds inspiration in literature, fashion, traditional art forms, browsing antique shops and flea markets, has been surrounded by art since she was a child. She used to go to art galleries and have artists visiting her home thanks to her father, who was a fervent art lover and patron of the arts.

Being creative simply came naturally to Nathaly and while she had initially seen herself as a designer, with the support and encouragement of Bayan Kanoo and Al Riwaq Art Gallery, she created her own art. Her first group exhibition was with the Nest and she also participated in the last two editions of Art Bab.

To collaborate with Nathaly, follow @yallahabibi_bh on Instagram.

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