UAE: Irthi elevates Emirati heritage crafts to the global stage

Sharjah: The works of Emirati artisans were made accessible to an audience of over 15,000 people and craft enthusiasts who participated in local and international Irthi events in 2021.

The UAE-based Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is affiliated with NAMA Women Advancement.

Irthi saw 11 design-led cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary craft collaborations, 14 new collection launches and 10 programs launched in 2021.

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said, “Under the guidance and vision of His Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness [Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and] the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of NAMA, Irthi has stepped up his efforts to bring Emirati craftsmanship to the world stage to help preserve and protect our heritage craftsmanship for future generations.

Reem Bin Karam
Image Credit: Supplied

She added: “The artistic and design-driven collaborative explorations carried out by Irthi have seen the introduction of new materials and techniques that today enrich the craft heritage of Sharjah and the UAE and carry the exceptional craft traditions of artisans Emiratis in exciting new directions. ”

Achievements in 2021

Irthi in 2021 launched new collections at Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai; the unveiling of fashion and jewelry collections on the global digital portal “Elevenish”; collaboration with London-based fashion brand QASIMI; and partnership on an artisanal urban installation project with the Beirut-based architecture and design studio, T SAKHI, among others.

The “Irthi Series” was launched at Design Miami/Podium x Shanghai with two contemporary handcrafted collections of uniquely designed yet functional objects and marked an important new chapter in Irthi’s efforts to safeguard the heritage of craftsmanship. of the region.

The Zenobia Collection drop – in collaboration with Levantine designer Nada Debs, integrated the worlds of Talli and marquetry while the Thaya Collection drop – created in collaboration with Bahraini and Emirati designers and a Pakistan-based art collective – offered an interpretation contemporary of Safeefah (palm leaf weaving).

The third cohort of 10 Emirati designers trained under ‘Azyame’, Irthi’s flagship fashion entrepreneurship program, with the unveiling of their Emirati crafts-inspired fashion and jewelry collections on Elevenish”, an international e-commerce site.

The creators of Irthi Azayme

The creators of Irthi Azaymé
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Irthis’ efforts to support local crafts and artisans in the MENASA region led to its selection as a collaboration partner for London-based QASIMI’s SS22 collection, which featured the unique Emirati craftsmanship of Safeefah and Faroukha (a hand-woven pompom).

Safeefah’s ‘Sayr Yaay’ motif also inspired the 2,000 artisanal scented sachets made from recycled felt by 37 Emirati artisans for the urban installation project designed and curated by Beirut-based T SAKHI, which was unveiled during the 5th edition of the European Cultural Center which opened in parallel with the Venice Architecture Biennale.


Irthi has teamed up with luxury Italian jewelry brand Bulgari for a panel discussion to discuss the importance of preserving and documenting cultural heritage, while offering Safeefah and Talli’s vision for the Irthi collection. x Cartier Ramadan 2021 which included handcrafted baskets and the Misbah (prayer beads).

Four creations celebrating indigenous craft heritage and produced by Emirati craftswomen as part of Irthi’s Bidwa social development program have been acquired by the House of Craftsmen as part of its permanent collections housed in the historic Qasr Al Hosn of Abu Dhabi.

Expo 2020 Dubai Sessions

The Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai set the stage for four discussions organized by Irthi to support the craft, textile and design industries in the United Arab Emirates, and served as the backdrop for the unveiling results of research initiated by the Council.

During the panel ‘The Art of Weaving Bonds’, Irthi highlighted the need to create a collective global framework to ensure fair trade and wages for artisan communities around the world. The session saw the participation of Reem Bin Karam, Director of NAMA (representing the United Arab Emirates), Maywand Jabarkhyl, CEO and Board Member of the Fatima Bint Mohamed Initiative (FBMI), Sheikha Bibi Duaij AlJaber Al Sabah of Kuwait, and Rosy Greenlees, Managing Director of the Crafts Council, UK.

‘The Cultural Power of Sustainability’ explored Irthi’s advanced palm fiber research and development of a biodegradable palm textile prototype and launched two publications – one, which focused on research on the date palm from Irthi and the second, a collaboration with the Alchemy of Dyeing which documents natural and sustainable recipes for dyeing palm leaves.

Highlighting the importance of documenting the iconic fragrance traditions of the UAE, including ancient recipes, blending techniques and ingredients, Irthi launched The Future Essence at ‘Connections Through Culture’. The bilingual publication also describes ongoing multimedia and design projects being implemented by Irthi in collaboration with the American University of Sharjah.


A discussion moderated by Ithi at Expo 2020 Dubai
Image Credit: Supplied

During the session titled “Crafting the Future”, Irthi launched Hiraf – an iPad game targeting the tech-savvy younger generation and designed to master the intricate weaving techniques of Talli and Safeefah. ‘Hiraf’ was developed in collaboration with Netherlands-based Opera Amsterdam, Studio Louter and Studio Shosho.

Skills exchange programs

Irthi expanded the creative and professional horizons of 13 young Emirati artisans with the skills of 12 types and techniques of Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery during a 12-month craft training program organized in collaboration with Jordanian brand Saru Fashion. Through a series of hands-on art workshops led by Irthi’s Hirfati youth program at Dubai Design Week’s Making Space, young participants were introduced to traditional Emirati craftsmanship as well as modern sustainable craftsmanship. . The craft was inspired by the cultural revitalization projects undertaken by Irthi’s Design Labs and Crafts Dialogue initiatives.

“Virtual Experience”

An interactive 360-degree “virtual experience” on Irthi’s website features a curated selection of the new and forthcoming collections that are modeled in three dimensions and set against the backdrop of Sharjah’s desert landscape to reflect the landscape from which these professions have emerged.

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