Jordanian Crafts District showcases art pieces inspired by heritage

As part of the Amman Design Week (ADW), which officially opened on Thursday, the Crafts District has been launched in the Raghadan Tourist Terminal with the aim of reviving it as a social space for craft, organisers said.

The exhibition, designed and curated by Dina Haddadin, features craftspeople from across the Kingdom, who — in collaboration with designers — created a space of pop-up shops, demonstration booths and a traditional food component, where visitors can experience a holistic view of the link between cultural heritage and design, Rana Beiruti, ADW co-director, told The Jordan Times on Saturday, adding that all the products in the district are local. 

“A misconception about crafts is that it is archaic and of the past, but we wanted to show that crafts can be contemporary,” Beiruti added Diana Rayyan, the designer heading the “Kees Chic” fashion brand and social enterprise, said they collect nylon bags, wash, dry and cut them into threads that are turned into reels, which are sent to crafts-women who use them to produce specific designs. 

Keesh Chic products showcased at the ADW exhibition included bean bags, each made from around 1,500 nylon bags which took seven days to be made, handbags and other art pieces inspired by Islamic and Palestinian art. Keesh Chic’s team comprises 27 women in Jeddah — Yemenis, Sudanese and Eritreans — 13 in the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, and four women in the Gaza Strip. 

Sharifa Al Mahamid, a member of the Iraq Al Amir Women’s Cooperative Association, said they use the leaves of various plants to make notebooks, cards, and albums. Mahamid said Lina Kanafani, the founder of Mint Design Gallery in London, invited two German designers to hold papermaking workshops at the association, which is supported by Noor Al Hussein Foundation and Al Shams Al Mushriqa organisation, and aims at supporting the livelihood of women in Iraq Al Amir and conserving their heritage. 

Ghor Safi Women’s Association is another enterprise of 14 women who work on dying white cloth using natural dyes, according to association member Nada Mashaaleh. Designs and innovations on display at the Crafts District did not stop at clothing, handbags, jewellery, and woodcrafts, but extended to food. Namliyeh, a jam shop located in Jabal Luweibdeh, whose workers “are inspired by the landscape”, is in charge of catering at the ADW’s various locations, Aya Shaban, the co-founder of Namliyeh, said. 

The architect said they merge the skills of cooking and architecture, designing the food tables at the Crafts District. Namliyeh also launched “Amman Eats” as part of the ADW, which gathers women from various villages to boost their cooking skills and make food products to generate income at the exhibition, Shaban said. 

The initiative, she said, will continue after the ADW concludes — on September 9 — to help them sustain their sales. Lina Lama Burgan, a designer at the family-owned business Al Burgan Handicrafts, said they have been working in handicrafts and fashion for 27 years, noting that for the ADW, they decided to create designs that enable visitors “taste the beauty of the story behind them”. 

Art pieces showcased at their booth included a dress, whose design Burgan said was inspired by the poem “Dawwarna Al Qamar” by Nizar Qabbani. Most booths and installations at the exhibition featured the concept of empowering women in different ways, and visitors can purchase products, enjoy the food and also attend musical performances by local musicians every evening of the ADW from 7pm to 8:30pm.

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