Made in Bahrain

Traditional handicrafts are one of the most important elements of the intangible heritage

  

The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca) has launched a new initiative aimed at promoting unique crafts and artisans in the kingdom with the aim of highlighting locally-made products and their heritage.

The social media drive is set to make stars of the artisans who are keeping Bahraini traditions alive ... with plans to make them tutors for the community in the future.

“The page will not only shed light on the different crafts but highlight the individual craftsmen and artisans – so you know who has made the item you are buying and how,” said Shaikha Hala bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Baca’s director-general of arts and culture.

“Handmade products are always popular. Knowing how much time, love and dedication has been put into the pieces make people have an immediate connection with the product they’re buying or planning to give a loved one as a gift.

“This exclusivity continues to make them popular. What has added to the success of this line of products has been the introduction of the designer and craftsmen collaboration.

“Through the ‘Made in Bahrain’ initiative, Baca revisits the visual and functional identity of Bahraini handmade products as a cultural expression - one that has stood the test of time and is reflective of our national identity.

“Traditional handicrafts are one of the most important elements of the intangible heritage, an exceptional material investment considering that each reproduction is unique.

“Cultural institutions are moving towards sustaining handicrafts, protecting them from extinction and preserving these crafts as core elements of national heritage.”

A gift shop for ‘Made in Bahrain’ was opened at Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre last December featuring more than 800 products on the first day. It did so well that it only made sense that ‘Made in Bahrain’ had its own presence on social media as well.

The first collaboration was between Baca’s own Dana AbdulGhani and the craftsmen of Al Jasra Handicraft Centre.

She has been working closely with craftsmen and women for the past eight years since her involvement in the annual Heritage Festival in 2014. Dana has designed household products such as small mats made of palm tree leaves and cushions made of shawls created by weavers.

Dana said: “My projects would often take me into the inner lives of craftspeople, into their homes, to document their practices and collaborate on projects.

“My passion for art and design expanded to crafts as did my awareness that without intervention, these crafts could be lost to time.

“I have a great respect and admiration for the process - the time and effort it takes to make things by hand.”

The slow, sustainable process of making and the importance of its transmission were driving forces behind the craft revitalisation projects she worked on which include ‘Unearthing’, an initiative that focused on pottery-making, and ‘Made in Bahrain’, in which old techniques and traditions were applied to new objects and products, introducing a Bahraini identity to a range of fashion items, stationery, furniture and objects.

Alongside this initiative, Baca is also highlighting an open call for designers and their training programme.

Shaikha Hala said: “In February, we’ll be opening the doors for designers and artisans in Bahrain to share with us their proposals on what they’d like to produce in collaboration with the craftsmen at Al Jasra Handicraft Centre to make their own ‘Made in Bahrain’ products.

“And, when the Covid-19 situation is under control, we will introduce workshops conducted by the craftsmen of the centre themselves, with a small fee to cover the cost of materials.

“The audience will be able to learn about the history of the craft, about the materials and equipment used and the basic skills needed to make an object.”

‘Made in Bahrain’ was the brainchild of Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Baca president, and launched in September last year on World Tourism Day.

Both will be announced on www.culture.gov.bh and @culturebah on Instagram. To find out about ‘Made in Bahrain’ connect via email madeinbahrain@culture.gov.bh or follow @culture_madeinbahrain on Instagram.

Due to popular demand, the Al Jasra Handicraft Centre will be open Sundays to Thursdays, 9am-1pm and 4pm-7pm starting February.

Visitors will be able to visit the craftsmen at their workshops and also the ‘Made in Bahrain’ gift shop.

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