As the sole Arab entity at Milan Design Week, Irthi raises profile of indigenous craft traditions of the region
Sharjah, 09 June 2022: Hundreds of culture enthusiasts and creatives in the art, architecture and design fields are exploring and experiencing the sophistication and aesthetic appeal of Emirati craft traditions as Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi) unveils an inspiring selection of exclusively curated, cross-cultural design collections at the Milan Design Week 2022, which opened its doors yesterday at the picturesque Italian city.
As the only Arab entity to be represented at the world’s pre-eminent design fair where about 2,000 exhibitors from around the globe have converged, Irthi is celebrating the spirit of innovation and creativity of indigenous craft heritage with five design collections that eloquently reimagine Emirati crafts and culture through a contemporary lens, in the presence of Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah and Her Excellency Reem BinKaram, Director, NAMA Irthi.
Two separate venues at the world’s leading event for contemporary design - the renowned Cambi Auction House and Palazzo Litta - are hosting Irthi’s curated collection of exhibits that are taking the fair’s discerning visitors on a multicultural journey through the region’s geography, customs, and generations-old techniques and materials.
Irthi is wooing visitors with the interplay between materials, colours, techniques, and craft traditions in each of its collections that are also pushing the boundaries between art and design. The collections unveiled at Milan Design Week underline the entity’s efforts in re-contextualising the craft traditions of the UAE and adapting them to contemporary tastes to preserve the crafts for the future and ensure the long-term and sustainable economic empowerment of women artisans.
Continuing with its mission of expanding the global appeal of the UAE’s timeless, indigenous craft traditions on international platforms, Irthi is also networking with international design houses and renowned designers at Milan Design Week to forge collaborations and create a new ecosystem for handmade crafts to take forward its agenda of providing a fresh narrative for women, by developing new market opportunities.
Five collections at the crossroads of cultures
The diverse stories of the region’s artisanal techniques and heritage find new expression in the five design collections as they intersect with novel materials and cutting-edge design to eloquently showcase the virtues of cross-border collaboration.
Three collections from Irthi’s Series that merge tradition with innovation have marked their debut at Milan Design Week this year. Moui Collection Drop and Nadd Collection Drop from Irthi’s Series interpret Emirati Talli and clay crafts with complex new shapes, sustainable and eco-friendly materials, and a blend of traditional and digital technologies to create uniquely designed yet functional objects that add beauty and joy to the living space.
Irthi’s Siyada Collection Drop, launched in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), harnesses the skills of 100 vulnerable female artisans in Pakistan and Afghanistan and seeks its inspiration in the traditional Emirati craft of Safafah (palm frond weaving) while also drawing on the visual cues of the region’s topography and its architectural doors.
A contemporary interpretation of Safeefah finds its way into homeware items in Thaya Collection Drop while the intricate, handwoven Emirati Talli and the wood-working heritage practiced in the Levant leave their enduring mark on multifunctional bowls in the Zenobia Collection Drop in collaboration with Nada Debs Studio.
Fostering intercultural dialogue through the medium of crafts
Her Excellency Reem BinKaram, Director, NAMA, said: “It is a great honour to represent Sharjah at the prestigious Milan Design Week and to be the sole representative of the Arab region’s design and crafts scene on this international platform where we nourish and initiate intercultural dialogue and diversity through the medium of crafts. Irthi’s exceptional works at Milan are the result of strong intercultural collaboration and play a vital role in upholding the intangible assets and cultural fabric of the region.”
The NAMA Director added: “By bringing indigenous crafts heritage to the forefront of design and promoting technical and material innovation, Irthi continues to empower female artisans to build on the narratives of their collective identity while also taking the handmaking heritage of the region into the future.”
Under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Irthi continues to develop craft connections, support and champion artisans and designers; and empower women artisans through a programme of creative, cultural, and commercial initiatives.