Culture Weekly

Weaving magic

May 9 - May 15, 2024
Gulf Weekly Weaving magic
Gulf Weekly Weaving magic
Gulf Weekly Weaving magic
Gulf Weekly Weaving magic
Gulf Weekly Weaving magic

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Six of Bahrain’s top creatives are threading the needle between the art and craft of fabric in a unique exhibition being showcased in Muharraq.

The Beyond the Thread group exhibition, which runs until May 30, features art pieces by Bader Al Saad, Christine Khonjie, Giuse Maggi, Hala Kaiksow, Mhairi Boyle and Noor Alwan, and is on display at the Bin Matar House under the umbrella of Shaikh Ebrahim Centre for Culture and Research.

“The artists in the exhibition have embraced textiles, fabrics and fibres as one of their primary mediums and sensitively explore material and process for artistic expression, metaphorical meaning and tool for critically questioning our environmental footprint and social impact of economic production processes,” the exhibition’s curator Melissa Enders-Bhatia told GulfWeekly.

“By so doing, the selected artists also tap into the rich textile and craft heritage in Bahrain, from the weavers in the village of Bani Jamra to the Kurar and Al Naqda embroidery traditions, the use of the indigenous palm tree for palm leaf weaving and paper making and inspiration from local Islamic architecture and embedded abstract decorative patterns.

“Fibre art has broadened the idea of what art can be and embraced the symbolism, embedded knowledge and gendered and colonial histories inherent in the medium. The artists in the exhibition show us unique interpretations of this medium through artworks created specifically for the exhibition Beyond the Thread.”

In Bader’s (Instagram: @imbaderthanthat) So My Heart May Be At Peace series, the needlework artist stitches together his passion for cross-stitching with his spiritual connection with the Holy Quran.

According to Bader, this collection encapsulates the Sufi pursuit of a peaceful soul by embodying four main characteristics: ‘ekhlas’ (Arabic: devotion), ‘tawakul’ (surrender), ‘sabr’ (patience), and ‘ehsan’ (excellence/ doing good). These four main characteristics are then broken down into three pillars: ‘alamer’ (God’s commands), ‘alwa’ad’ (God’s promises), and ‘al jaza’a’ (God’s rewards).

Meanwhile, Hala’s (IG: @halakaiksow) Rooting Systems explores a return to land, both metaphorically and physically, and what it means to shape and be shaped by the environment.

“In this work I explore paper as a medium that can be both rigid and fluid, that can offer shelter but maintain its fragility at the same time,” she explained.

“The work is then embroidered with cloth and thread that takes its colour from the madder root that has been harvested from my garden to create the vibrant blood-red hue, that guides the audience through the work and allows them to take refuge under its lines.”

Similarily, Mhairi (IG: @mhairi.boyle) has drawn her inspiration from Bahrain’s natural features, building on her 2020 project What She Sees, which was exhibited in the Bahrain Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai.

Her four-part inLAND | COASTal series uses natural dyes created with dried date seeds, spices and locally grown herbs as well as seaweed.

“The pieces are all hand woven by Habib Al Rasool from Bani Jamrah, who has inherited the craft and knowledge from his late grandfather, and father Saleh Al Rasool,” she added.

Noor (IG:@noornalwan) is also building on a previous work, adding to her 2021 series Sacred Spaces, which adapts her grandfather, Mohamed Janahi’s drawings into spatial installations using embroidery on textiles.

In Sacred Sanctum, she is inspired by a dome in one of his earliest drawings of a mosque, and reinterprets it into a human-scale size made out of multi-coloured sheer organza and embroidery.

“The hung dome with its translucency and movement invites people to enter and experience it within to create a fleeting space of sanctuary,” she added.

Over in the Forever series, Italian multidisciplinary artist Giuse ( addresses the importance of repurposing salvaged materials, exploring the interplay between form and colour, experimenting with plastic materials and employing textile techniques including quiltying, stitching, mending, embroidery and crocheting.

Drawing inspiration from Bauhaus textile art, she integrates simple coloured shapes to convey depth and create an illusion of dimension.

“Deliberately narrative threads, through embroidery, connect the fabric’s composition, allowing abstract landscapes to emerge,” she added.

Taking inspiration from her passion for prehistory, Christine’s (IG:@khonjie) Embroidering My Shadow piece builds on nature-based myths in a style reminiscent of historic cave paintings.

“Embroidering is walking step by step on an unknown path, tying up the thread, cutting it, going forward again, and losing my way, from light to darkness, the needle tattooing a dream body,” she explained.

For more details, follow @shaikh_ebrahim_center on Instagram.

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