31 MAY - 2 JUNE 2021

DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTRE

PART OF

Middle East Design & Hospitality Week Logo

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Thubabah by Latifa Saeed

2015. Toy.
From the Kinetic Khoos series.
Palm frond weave.
15 (L) x 25 (W) x 7 (H) cm.
Limited edition series of 10.

During the Tanween design programme, Saeed explored intuitive methods of design that started with a response to materials. She looked in particular at how to manipulate and challenge natural materials, ultimately with the aim of exploring notions of heritage and preservation. In these attempts to change outdated perceptions of traditional craft, she discovered a new way of using khoos (palm frond weaving) that utilized mechanisms of motion and kinetic art to create sculptural toys. Saeed believes that a dynamic appreciation of the past, through actively visualizing inherited knowledge as part of the future, is crucial to the preservation of tradition and craft. Often using raw materials, in this case palm fronds, she attempts to shift the focus from what these materials are, to what they can do. By experimentation with weaves in terms of their possible movements, aesthetic presentations and extensive research into the different types of weaves, she was led to artistic exchanges with local artisans.

This provided her with an insight into how artisans work, fabricate and survive in the modern world, and allowing her to also better understand the cultural context of the weave. The sharing of passions and ideas created an interesting dynamic between Saeed and Sheikha, the artisan she worked with, who collaborated on exploring ways to connect the contemporary to the past. Ultimately, it was Sheikha’s knowledge of old traditions, through her weaves, that led to the concept of the toys—children would often use palm fronds to create dolls and simple wind mills. Saeed was able to experiment with the industrial process and application of chemicals at Tashkeel, where she took an almost forensic approach to research by documenting the different types of palm trees and their distinct behaviours. She found that there is a specific type of leaf chosen from only the centre of the tree for its strength, which then goes through an intricate process of being prepared for the weave that was ideal for working with on her more structured designs requiring integrity and strength of material. Ultimately, Saeed hopes that her kinetic designs inspire other designers to reconsider the material as viable for a number of uses, from flooring to installation art. By reclaiming lost knowledge about the potential uses and strengths of palm frond weaving, she sparks life back into old traditions.

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The Braided Series by Latifa Saeed

2014. Chair.
Braided cushion tubes and wooden frame.
Dimensions variable.
Limited edition series of 10.

2014. Ottoman.
Braided cushion tubes and wooden frame.
Limited edition series of 10.
80 (L) x 70 (W) x 90 (H) cm.

The design for this chair grew out of Saeed’s quest for the perfect headboard. Unable to find one on the market that was attractive, comfortable, and child-friendly, she created her own. After a process of experimentation, she developed a technique of braiding linen cushion tubes, and gathering them into clusters to create an undulating padded surface of organic pattern. The process and pattern of this braiding evoked happy memories from the designer’s childhood, when she and her friends always wore their hair in braids. Both the material and the technique, which can only be carried out by hand, are simple and timeless but the resulting design feels contemporary and playful. In the production of her pieces of furniture, Saeed collaborates with local craftsmen. She intends to add more items to her burgeoning collection and then to create an environment for them to inhabit. “The United Arab Emirates is a very resourceful country. If a person tries hard enough, I believe they can overcome any challenge they are facing.”

MEET THE TASHKEEL ARTISTS AT INDEX

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