Monday July 22nd, 2024
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Immerse Yourself in Craft at Jameel House of Traditional Art in Fustat

As many turn to traditionally inspired decorations at home, this art house is offering classes on how to create them.

Karim Abdullatif

A term often associated with traditional arts is ‘timeless’. Aside from the fact that furniture and decorations hosting such arts never really go out of trend, it’s really about the techniques standing the test of time. Keep those alive and the result will, in fact, be timeless. While many enjoy obtaining pieces that have culturally inspired designs at home, some may jump at the opportunity of crafting them. Even better, learning how to craft them.

Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo is a non-profit organisation located in the heart of Fustat that was launched in 2009 by Art Jameel, a Saudi-based organisation that supports creative communities, alongside the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, and the Cultural Development Fund of Egypt. It hosts classes in traditional geometry, arabesque patterns and colour harmony as well as specialised training in painting on ceramics and pottery, and an 8th century Japanese technique of natural dyeing.

Aside from the intricate woodworks, and colourful glassworks, one of the more popular classes Jameel House hosts is pottery, a craft that captures as many hearts as it occupies shelves in interiors. Students are not only introduced to clay and learn how to shape it into ceramics, but things go down to the knitty-gritty. After all the pressing, polishing and glazing, the surface of the products are then drawn on.

Immersed in an experimental atmosphere, the art house hosts certain focuses that teeter away with common traditions, such as the natural dyes workshop which involves an 8th century Japanese technique that allows for a variety of outcomes. Folded, twisted and tied, fabrics are dipped in natural dye, with each person exploring different effects by using objects ranging from wooden triangles to chickpeas. Yes, chickpeas.

Colours aren’t reserved to those workshops, as there are classes on colour harmonies that allow participants to paint different geometric patterns. Accompanied by qualified instructors and professionals in each specialisation, techniques which may at first appear to be complicated can be simplified. Which is the case for all of the crafts taught at the Jameel House, including drawing floral motifs on pottery.

Focusing on preserving cultural heritage, Jameel House organises visits to surrounding monuments to draw inspirations from their designs. It doesn’t only build a connection with craft, but also establishes a sense of community within and around the place. Which is a core element of the experience, as students that graduate with their diplomas get to keep connected through annual alumni art exhibitions.

Reviving traditions isn’t merely about restoring certain designs, but it’s refamiliarizing the techniques they follow. Allowing modern-day Egyptians to breathe life into timeless designs by recreating and even evolving them by hand.


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