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Yadawi: Kuwait’s creative collective

Lubna with Her art peice
Lubna with Her art peice

Anything hand crafted or worked by hand was respected and valued in her family. Unlike many in Kuwait, Lubna Saif Abbas grew up in a family that gardened, that baked and sewed and crafted and everyone pitched in creating in some way. Well known local artisan, beader and caretaker of the Yadawi studio and artisan collective, Lubna talked with Kuwait Times about the origins of her passion for artisanal work and creativity.

The value of handmade
“It is important to promote craft work because you feel better when you make your own things. You sleep better because you’re tired at the end of the day. Once you become engaged in something that’s good and then when you leave you can keep on doing it, you stop thinking of your discontent, you stop thinking of what bothers you or about what somebody else has. It’s therapeutic,” explained Lubna.

Kuwait, once renowned in the Gulf and the world for its handcrafted ships and artisanal products has long forsaken the handmade for the branded.

“Kuwaiti society passed seven months of occupation which in the scheme of human history of wars and occupations was a very short amount of time. We would like to see what is the outcome of this? My question to my community is when we run out of oil, what will you do next? and what will you do before to prepare your community to be able to sustain a life with dignity? In a grounder picture, catastrophic things happen in the world, which culture do we think will survive and make it through? We might not have as much as the wealth as we have today unless we’re smart and really savvy to start harnessing solar and wind energy, plus other alternatives. We need to build a society of people who are vibrant and active and have the sensibility to not only consume but to be aware of their consumption and also be able to create,” Lubna argues.

Artisanal collective
Begun in 2007, Yadawi is unique in Kuwait, one of the few artisan collectives in the region. “Our collective started as clients then evolved very quickly. We have so many beautiful products and materials that we started exhibiting under Yadawi. Our members who have master a skill started developing programs where they become teachers. In fact, all teachers were Yadawi members because it’s a process. They are somebody who understands our vision and has the same sensibility,” Lubna said. Yadawi collective represents between four to 10 artisans in Kuwait, both foreigners and locals.

“What we want people to do is invest in themselves. Most of our workshops are technique-and project-based. Accordingly, you learn a technique and you have a project. Now, our prices for our workshops are very reasonable but they’re not cheap because the products we use are of quality, talented people come with original designs and there’s a lot of time going into this,” said Lubna.

Teaching for the future
“We are mortal. One way of me having something that goes beyond our mortality is to teach. Whatever you’ve given, you would hope that someone would continue with this idea of sharing. We are not here forever. But, at least the things we make will last. Hopefully, the things that I’ve shared and I’ve taught, not just myself, but the other people who come here to teach and share, will create a momentum that has nothing to do with me.”

“My mother, Lady Z, who I recently lost, asked to build this basement in the Seventies. This is her doing. She’s here and I’m so grateful that she allowed me to live my dream to have this place for Yadawi,” Lubna said.

Yadawi hosts a variety of workshops throughout the year and promotes the work of its members through markets and a shop located in Souq Al Mubarakiya, which also sells inks, stamps, art supplies and other artisanal items. Thirty to forty art and craft workshops run every year including beading, deco patch, sewing, art clay and calligraphy in both English and Arabic.

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