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Looms that sway like a camel’s gait The art of Al Sadu weaving
Long before black gold turned the desert into a haven of luxury and modernity, civilization traversed the undulating sands of the Arabian deserts in the form of its most endemic natives – the Bedouins!
Many aspects of today’s mores and cultures can be traced back in time to these hardy, hospitable and adventurous people who flourished on the sands braving the harshest of living conditions in the world with their strong spirit, ability to adapt and survival techniques handed down from generation to generation.
Among the many fascinating hand-me-downs was an art, which for its creative appeal and as a carrier of a rich heritage has seeped through the ages with the mesmerizing quality of a fable. It’s the traditional art of weaving called Al Sadu.
Al Sadu was essentially a Bedouin women’s field of expertise as she made use of her free time - weaving the many textile requirements demanded by a desert life - while the men were away on more adventurous expeditions. Tents, rugs, carpets, tent separators, bags, animal trappings and other household elements, purely driven by necessity. But as designs and patterns yielded to the deft hands of the weavers, the women saw in it a wider canvas to express their instinctive awareness of beauty and balance. Coded into the patterns were messages from their lifestyles and desert environments, creating a visual language of sorts with a rich lexicon of symbols, motifs and patterns, providing a wealth of meanings.
The women saw in it a wider canvas to express their instinctive awareness of beauty and balance
Every woven piece became a testimony to a weaver’s artistic achievement, dexterity and aesthetic values. The beauty of Al Sadu is not just in the finished masterpieces, but in the very weaving process itself, where the movement of the loom is rhythmically linked to poetry and the graceful sway of a camel’s gait.
The yarn for weaving comes from camel or sheep wool, which is then dyed red or purple. Bedouin men shear the sheep, camels and goats, and the wool is cleaned and prepared by the women. The yarn is spun on a drop spindle, then dyed, then woven on a floor loom using a warp-faced plain weave. White and black, being available organically from sheep wool, are not synthetically dyed. Some weavers prefer to leave camel wool undyed to keep its natural hue.
Traditionally, only natural materials were used to color the yarns. These included henna, saffron, turmeric and sometimes even the camel’s urine. Only a limited number of colors were required for Al Sadu weaving as patterns depended more on the shapes than the colors. The dynamics between the loom and the yarn depended on the desired designs.
In Kuwait, the practice of Al Sadu spilled beyond the borders of the desert and into the urban lifestyle, where men took the lead. Kuwait has laid much store towards preserving this ancient art.
Leading in that mission is the Al Sadu Society of Kuwait which is dedicated to preserving, documenting and promoting the rich and diverse textile heritage of the Kuwaiti Bedouin, from the nomadic weaving of the desert through to the urban weaving of the town.
In Kuwait, the practice of Al Sadu spilled beyond the borders of the desert and into the urban lifestyle, where men took the lead
The society was established in 1978, as a private initiative, by a group of concerned locals who realized the need to do something in order to save this endangered art from the brink of extinction. This was the beginning of the Al Sadu Project. In 1991, soon after the Liberation of Kuwait, the project was transformed into Beit Al Sadu or The Sadu House, a venture owned and run by the weavers and artisans themselves.
For more information on Beit Al Sadu, please visit https://www.visit-kuwait.com › attractions › sadu-house-kuwait