A project initiated in Beirut in December 2019 with a collective of women from Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. Some experienced in embroidery, whilst others were complete novices.
All nine women are working at Zena’s, Syrian woman from Aleppo, based in Badaro, Beirut since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Zena has now moved to France where the tapestry was finalised. A passionate conductor, dedicated to training and bringing women together, in search for better opportunities, Zena introduced me to her team to whom I presented an illustrated maquette for a tapestry I wished to develop in conjunction with them.
Inspired by the exhibition « Thief of Baghdad » at Dar el-Nimer which I had visited in March 2019 in Beirut, an exhibition which comprised of a series of film posters, press clippings and photographs from the extensive collection of Abboudi Abou Jaoudé. The tapestry invites the audience to explore the perception of the Arab men in the Western collective imaginary through films and literature such as A Thousand and One Nights, Sinbad, Cleopatra, Aladdin, Scheherazade to name a few.
The almost burlesque image of a strong, powerful man showcasing masculinity contrasts with the delicate embroidery work, hand-stitched by women with irony. It’s also the male bond in a city where women are invisible that is illustrated and questioned. An imaginary cityscape translated through various stitching techniques. For some women, there’s a bit of Baghdad, Aleppo, Homs, Dara, Ramallah...each sharing of their identity in the tapestry.
Because of the circumstances, over a year was needed to finalise the piece. The Lebanese uprising, the pandemic, the 4th august blast and Zena’s move to France in January 2021 have made the production eventful to say the least...Throughout those events, the tapestry would allow creative escapes and dialogues to the artisans involved and myself, following its evolution through the screen of my phone.
Hand-embroidery and ink wash on burlap Beirut, Lebanon - Ligné, France, 2021
135 x 104 cm