In this series of photographs, I focused on the hands of artisans, the hands that once created the simple, functional and beautiful handicrafts that every Kuwaiti household used or donned on a daily basis: dhows, woolen weavings, palm baskets, knotted ropes, burqaa’s, and bishts. Bearing the passage of time, their aged hands remind us of a time past when we relied on our own hands to sustain ourselves, a time when the materials available — sourced from the desert or from travels at sea — generated a material culture that was distinctly khaleeji in its simplicity and restraint.
Today, the number of artisans has dwindled and only a handful remain. Finding the six artisans was in an of itself a journey of research and discovery, a sad realization that what once was an era of creativity and self sufficiency had reached its terminus. Embedded in these 12 palms is the memory of a whole crafts culture that was washed away by a changing economy and a growing reliance on cheaper foreign imports.
Ibrahim Al-Ashwak, Al-Gallaf, was once a boat builder. With the demise of the maritime economy, demand for his skill dwindled and his focus turned to creating miniatures of traditional dhows, baghlas and booms instead. Um-Fawaz, the sadu weaver, maintains her daily weaving ritual but struggles to find much interest in her weavings or in the continuity of this back-breaking craft. Probably the last of the Kuwaiti bisht weavers, Bo Salem laments what he sees as a loss of interest in this astonishingly beautiful traditional garb by a new generation of young Kuwaitis.
Much emphasis goes into remembering objects, but little on remembering the persons that helped sustain these beautiful crafts.
These photographs are a homage to them and to the beauty of the handmade.