Kuwaiti Embroidery Blends Rich Art and Outstanding Craft
|Altaf Salem Al Ali
"Embroidery crafted by indigenous groups opens the door to their
history and society; through it they speak a silent language more eloquent
than written pages," says Sheikha Altaf Salem Al Ali while quoting
Louis Morgan on the social significance of local embroideries.
Altaf Salem Al Ali, a Kuwaiti anthropologist and an AUB graduate (BA '71,
MA '75), was invited by the Friends of the Museum to give a lecture entitled
"Traditional Weavings of Kuwait: Nomadic Tent-Dividers and Urban
Cloaks" on March 5. Mrs. Nora Jumblat was one among a large audience
who gathered at the archaeological museum to listen to Al Ali's description
of this embroidery, known as Al Sadu-a traditional craft practiced by
Not only did she present the aesthetic and practical characteristics and
the historical evolution of this embroidery, Al Ali presented also the
results of her anthropological research following her interviews with
numerous women who still practice this craft despite its dwindling popularity.
According to Al Ali, among the important factors that influenced the evolution
of the use and appearance of the embroidery is the interplay between the
desert and port life of Kuwaitis. "Despite their dependence on pearl
fishing, the Kuwaitis never lost their contact with the desert, for it
shows in the elaborate and extensive use of embroideries," Al Ali
said, adding, "Kuwaiti women used to learn the craft of making embroideries
from their childhoods, but now there exists a minority of those women
at the 'house of Al Sadu' who produce traditional embroideries and export
them to outside countries."
At the end of her talk, Al Ali announced the publication of her latest
book Ibjad, which provides an artistic study and assessment of the traditional
Kuwaiti embroidery. In it she highlights the multifaceted richness of
Kuwaiti art and culture sustained by Kuwaiti women through their crafts.