Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some worthwhile videos

Sometimes photos are not enough. Here are a few videos I shot that I thought worthwhile to post.
Hope you get a better sense of Kuwait through them!
An event with the great Kuwaiti organization Spread the Passion at the Modern Art Museum, great band!
The leading of the prize winning sheep - did I mentioned that one of these could buy you a Ferrari! Seriously!
A traditional sword dance at the Heritage Village -
Fabulous work by the Kuwaiti artist Bader Al Mansour - such a creative and prolific artist!
Yet another by Al Mansour. I wish you could hear the music.
A bit of the Arabian Gulf for you all - quite beautiful to see.
A little of my drive every morning through Kuwait - along the Gulf Road
Dar Al  Athar Al Islamiyah (Amricani) Museum - excellent show of Islamic arts from millennia ago - with the added bonus of a music group practicing in the background!
Right outside of the Beit Al Sadu - misting that night with the call to prayer cutting through

Monday, January 19, 2015

Just a few more photos of the intriguing Kuwait!

Outside the Marina Mall

Love the tissue box with SADU!

Add caption

Samir Al Sayegh at Dar Al Funoon Gallery

Just outside the Museum of Modern Art

Luxurious desserts at the Lecture

hummus Carnival anyone?

Figuring out the set of three coffee pots that are now home with me

Gold gold everywhere!

Great food all the time!

Bader art at Becarrels Gallery - will post video soon!

Tea is served!

Sharq Mall

McDonald's delivery scooter!

The Avenues Mall - CRAZY!

It just so happened......

"It just so happened" seemed to happen a lot on this trip. It seemed that things fell into place as needed, unexpected surprises continued to surface, and so many wonderful parts of Kuwait life and culture continue to open to me.

So here is one blog with my favorite "it just so happen-ings!"

It just so happened that one day during the workshop, a woman came to Beit Al Sadu with a treasure load of sadu from her family. So imagine walking out and seeing the most beautiful, large pieces of sadu on the ground just inside the doorway . The two pieces flanking the long side are woven using a pile technique, the details are beautiful!!!
Apparently this is a common occurrence at Beit Al Sadu - once again, how different it is to live in a culture where textile traditions are so close and available.

It just so happened that on Thursday night, Patricia and I were at the Mubarakiya Souk and an amazing group of musicians were set to play traditional music. I think this was part of the Qurain Festival. I enjoyed watching the older man, he showed such joy in his movements! Apparently the idea is that you dance over to someone and egg them on to get them up to dance with you. So much fun to watch!
It just so happens that there is a stairway leading to a treasure room. Really, look at it, only something good can be at the top of a stairway like this. So I was able to visit the store room for the Sadu House. Layers of rich color, intricate patterning, and folds of cloth were packed into this room. We had time for only a quick glance around but can't wait for an opportunity in the future to revisit and spend some time searching through and learning more from these textiles! So many techniques, details, and life were in each. Just wow!

It just so happened that I had the chance to experience a shop like Patricia was talking about - where you go in and sit down, and stay longer than you need "to grab a few things." I was picking out two traditional drums for Donnie, called Ta and Mweras. Patricia and I were warmly welcomed by the older gentleman you see to my left and his younger friend. They answered all of my questions regarding the instruments, how you play them, and where they were made. So as I was picking out the drums, they continued to hand me things/gifts to take home,  flute instruments,  tapes of Yacoub (the older gentleman) playing in his musical group,  small toy drums, a set of hand cymbals, I think that may have been all that was added to my bag. But what was most interesting was being able to talk with the friend (via his daughter who he called on the phone to act as translator) about Yacoub and this traditional music. The friend sent out for several waters for us to have then we sat down and began to listen to a tape of Yacoub playing the haban (a type of bagpipe-ish instrument if the details are right). The daughter described this as  very old and rare music to hear. So this was an very unexpected addition to this already unique shop visit. We had permission to take a video (which Patricia will be sending to the friend) so I hope you enjoy a piece of this as well! Before we left, Yacoub handed me his worry beads, a very kind gesture. I brought them home and now Liam asks if he can take them to his bed at night, in case he has dreams and worries;)

It just so happened that my final day in Kuwait fell on the beginning of Hala February - a time to celebrate in Kuwait. My hotel happened to be at the perfect spot to watch the Kuwaiti Airforce do fly-bys in a 30 minute airshow!
What a send off;)!!!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A little about the workshop going on....

This second week of my stay in Kuwait is devoted to design. Through a truly collaborative workshop with a wonderful group of women devoted to Al Sadu House, we are exploring new designs in sadu. We all decided that we will not post/instagram/facebook/tweet anything specific on what we are doing for these designs - so it is a secret until they are launched!

It has been wonderful to work within this group and I am happy that every design that comes out is from their collective energy, thought, and talent.

This was the first for me in many ways - this was the first workshop I ever led that was bilingual, both English and Arabic. The amazing Sarah Alfarhan (http://sarahalfarhan.com/) did an incredible job translating everything from complex design ideas, one on one conversations, and basically anything said from English into Arabic. I am forever grateful!
This workshop was the first held in such an amazing and inspiring place, the courtyard area of Beit Al Sadu (Sadu House) that was built in 1936. The architecture, detailing of each room, and the history of the place was such a unique experience to be in day after day.
This was also the first workshop that became a complete collective effort to accomplish several important goals. It was truly amazing to see how each person in the workshop jumped in full of energy and readiness.

After only 5, 3 hour workshop days (only 15 hours) we have a huge array of new designs that will be translated into new products for Al Sadu. Stay tuned for these!

Until then, here are some pics from the workshop! Hope you enjoy!

Desertscapes, Bedouin sheep judging and Hardee's - what a combination!

I have been waiting days for the time and energy to write this post - I really can't wait! (So this might be a little long)

One of the wonderful things about being in Kuwait is the hospitality of so many people I have met. They are warm, open, and gracious hosts. When you combine that with deserts, a Heritage Village, livestock, and Hardee's you get a very unique day!
I was hoping, since I found out I would be coming to Kuwait, that I would be able to see the desert area outside of Kuwait City. Robert Milnes, our previous dean, told me to make sure I got out to the desert - so I made sure to take the advice. So thanks to the amazing Patricia and her husband Mohammed, I did!

We left Kuwait City on the road heading to Salmi, which, if you drive long enough takes you to the border of Saudi Arabia (maybe next trip!)
It was fortunate that since it is "winter," many families have camp sites they use throughout the season. These are large scale tents (not the American style), well furnished, heated, lit, with all of the comforts of home. There must have been hundreds spread over the miles as we drove to the site of the Kuwaiti Heritage Village.

As a stereotypical tourist, camels were on my list of things to see in the Middle East. About halfway to Salmi, we spotted a herd (is that the term?) close to the road. We stopped to get a better shot, which as you will see consists of very nice pin point silhouettes of something resembling a camel......
The tents that you see spread across the road resemble the traditional Bedouin tents. What was once hand-woven, is now constructed out of machine milled fabrics you can find in the Mubarakiya Souk (who knows where else). As we were driving into the Heritage Village we stopped at one of the many shops set up alongside the road. The owner continued to ply us with dates, Saudi snacks, raisins from Yemen, dried mint, and something rather nice covered in chocolate. The store itself was one that I hope would influence the bland/modern ideas of shopping experiences we have in the States. Rich reds, intricate carpets and perfectly presented items inside a cozy tent - what more do you want? In the end, I was able to take home a set of Syrian made coffee pots - I was wanting one, but apparently they come in a set of three, sized medium, kind of medium, and almost medium;).

So far, my experience in the desert fit my idea of an authentic desert experience - tents, camels, plenty of Arabic signs, and on. So when we get to the Heritage Village - so image a really nice Texas State Fair - I am ready. We park and walk into the complex down a large hall with a beautiful fiber structure filled with mostly Kuwaitis with their families. I am missing some of the description so here is a quick overview- there were army
tanks on display, makers of this sweet resembling the filling of a pecan pie, and all kinds of goods ready to sell. So by the time we come to the end of this "great hall" we come out into an open area and my first sight is a Hardee's fast food chain - the real deal. To put this in context, I haven't really seen a Hardee's since the one in Hazel Green, Alabama closed down sometime in high school. So I was surprised (maybe pleasantly, or ironically) that one happened to be here in the middle of a desert. You will see in the photo, it is not only Hardee's but KFC, Krispy Crème, Baskin Robbins, Subway, and even a Pizza Hut. So every fast food chain that would be found in any small, or large, town in the US was here in the middle of the Heritage Village, in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert......
 I did say that one of my goals in going to Kuwait would be to ride a camel. So of course, there are camel rides here, and the temptation to fulfill this wish almost had me considering a ride. But the fact that the camel giving rides did not seem that happy, was enough for me to consider waiting - check out the video!

The highlight of this day in the desert was the unexpected opportunity that came next.
This entire heritage village reminded me somewhat of the Texas State Fair - so a big component is the livestock show and judging. Curiosity led us to the arena with the most peculiar looking sheep divided into herds within pens. They were flat faced with the most bulbous bottoms I have ever seen on any animal!

As we worked our way around to get a closer look, Mohammed somehow managed to get us permission to be in the actual arena where the judging was going on. I still have no idea how this happened, I like to think that Mohammed has a way about him that would grant him access to Buckingham Palace if he wanted.

The head of the event was a very imposing but friendly man, who allowed us in. We were ushered to a seat on the edge of the arena to await the proceedings. I do need to mention why this is so unique, in taking a closer look around, apparently this is a men's only event. Patricia and I were the only two women within sight, and I seem to think this may be one of the first times two women were allowed so close. Most of the spectators were seated behind the fence and it seemed that you only got in if you knew someone inside (thus my amazement that we somehow ended up as special guests).  So for the next two hours or so, we watched as sheep were judged and culled down to the finalists. Traditional coffee and tea (a special thyme and one with a mixture of saffron and cardamom) were continually served to all of the judges and graciously brought to us as well.

So we did not have too much of a clue as to what exactly was going on throughout, after about two hours of movement, of men and sheep, two brown sheep with bells started to lead several groups from the arena into the adjoining tent. We sat there while the spectators on the outside of the fence were allowed in.  We were then invited inside, where once again we were offered special seating in the arena, chairs were brought in and we were able to have excellent seats to watch the final judging. I asked Mohammed why we were allowed in, and he said that we were considered guests and that in traditional Bedouin hospitality, if a stranger comes to your home/tent, you host them for 3 days with no questions asked, not even their name. So this sense of hospitality was shown to us.

We watched as each of 5 judges were introduced. Each took a voting card and selected their winners, then put those in a box which was opened beforehand to show it was empty, no cheating there!

The winner was announced with a huge applause, tossing of hats, and raising up the winner. Everyone gathered around to see the winning 5, although we could never figure out the final winner. I will say that we made our personal judgments, and the ones selected were our finalists - not too bad for a first timer!

In the end, we had a very unique experience. The hospitality was wonderful and allowed me a peek into another world. Too bad we were too early in the week for the camel judging - I would like to have seen what the most attractive camel would look like;)

The Heritage Village had so many more fun and interesting parts, too much to continue to describe. But I will post several more photos to give you a sense of the experience!

And the winner is.......!
The 5 finalists!

The patient audience finally allowed inside for the final judging.

Inside the tent for the final judging.

3 distinct agal (head wrap), the red/white is common in Kuwait, I think the one on the right might be from Qatar or Oman trying to remember. But very striking with the disdashas (the long shirt).

He vintage car collection in Kuwait, turned into a museum, so several of the cars were at the village.

In the Kuwait Hall, several displays of traditional Kuwait, including love of music