Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Weekend in Cairo, Part 2: The Tentmakers


The Tentmakers work in Old Cairo on Sharia Khayammia or the Tentmakers’ Street.

Approaching Sharia Khayammia. 





One side of the ancient gate doors. 





For generations, hundreds of workers (male) were employed here, making beautiful tents often used for ceremonies such as weddings. The appliqués were on the inside, giving a sort of stained-glass effect.


Today, only about forty shops remain. The tentmakers rarely get orders for handmade tents because of the cost. They have had to adapt to different markets and (tragically) now sell the printed fabric that has replaced their work.










However, they keep working.






On the positive side, their appliqués can now be seen in wall hangings, pillow cases, and bed covers. The small, narrow shops are crammed with beautiful creations.
                                       Now do I have your attention?


                                The lotus is a frequent design element.

                                       The bird designs were unusual.
                One can find tentative pieces that stray from traditional designs. 
It would seem that these artisans wish to test the waters to see if they can expand their repertoire while still pleasing clients. 
Amr has a Masters degree in philosophy, 
but has followed in his father's footsteps. 
He finds himself bored by the constant repetition of traditional designs and seeks new possibilities. Other young men of Tentmaker families seem more interested in the commercial aspect of the business and less interested in plying needle and thread. Given the economic problems in Egypt and changing social conditions, the Tentmakers may be next on the list of endangered species. 

I would be surprised if this brief tour hasn't given readers an overload of color and design.  Ahhh, but I'm saving the best for last!
________________________________________________________________
NB: 1) All photos were taken with permission of the Tentmakers.
       2) August 22-25 the AQS is sponsoring an exhibition of 95 Tentmakers quilts in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See their site for more information.

39 comments:

meta said...

Beautiful photos!

Aart said...

I love your posts of the tentmakers, they make beautifull work!
http://quiltaart.blogspot.nl

Rachaeldaisy said...

I'm blown away by this post. Such beautiful work!! It's sad that they may be endangered, I really hope the tradition continues. I wonder what else you have in store for us, hard to believe it could be better than this.

Teodo said...

Bellissimi, stupendi, amazing, fantastic.
These men are very good. And the women don't sew?
ciao ciao linda

MyMixMix said...

These are absolutely wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing. Such a shame that this art is being lost. At least, because of the size of tents, hopefully there will be many remain of the fabric.

fiberchick said...

Gorgeous post! Thank you so much for this. A dear friend visited Egypt in the spring but could not visit the tentmakers because it was not considered safe at that moment for tourists. It is lovely to see their exquisite work...

rtquilter said...

WOW! I am blown away! How very sad that this fabulous tradition is giving way to modern ways. How is it that no one has time any more ? Thanks so much for this post nadia. Very interesting!

Radka said...

Wow, you have my attention! It is so sad to think that another craft might be lost. Lets hope not, but it is the same story as everywhere else, we are not prepared (or can not afford)to pay for a real craft.

Karen Bates said...

Beautiful...so stunning. Hard to believe the work that goes into these works of art. I fear it is a dying breed.

Michelle said...

Those are amazing! I just followed your blog so I can see what it is that you're saving for last. :-)

Gerrie said...

Gorgeous photos. Are you familiar with Australian artist, Jenny Bowker. She has been working with the tent makers for some time. Here is a link: http://www.jennybowker.com/tentmakers/

summerlandcottagestudio said...

Awe inspiring,
Thank you for sharing all the talent, beauty and color!

Nifty Quilts said...

Truly amazing! Every one is exquisite. I wonder about how their hands hold up. It's hard to imagine a whole tent with this appliqué. Incredibly beautiful, I'm sure.

Ms. said...

Well here it is very late the same day as my email to you, and now the blog appears in all it's splendor, I'm sending part !! link to my Egyptian friend, and eagerly awaiting the last installment!

PURA said...

Beautiful works.
Cheers.

joanna said...

Wow! These are amazing! to think of how many hours go into each piece...
Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos!

Becky said...

WOW! Yep, you got my attention! What an amazing art and custom that I never knew about! Thanks for sharing!

American Homestead said...

I am going to the Tentmakers of Cairo exhibit later this month in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All the best, Ellen

The Idaho Beauty said...

I've read about these before and was intrigued by this tradition. Truly beautiful work that we hope will not go by the wayside. Thanks for sharing - not an overload at all!

Patty Ashworth said...

The AQS show will have an exhibit of quilts made by the tent makers. They are publishing a book about it! So go to the AQS site and you can find it. I can't get to the show, so I think I'll have to order the book. Thanks for your pictures! You are lucky to have seen them in person!

Emma said...

Lovely posts about these talented people. You can sense their passion so I hope they are not endangered.

Cairo looked, well, facinating! Wonderful to go drawing with the GD, if you can't take the camera what's better? Loved the shots of your domain, too.

Claire said...

I saw an exhibition of these in the UK last summer, and some of the tent makers were demonstrating their skills. Such amazing work, and great images. Thank you.

Cathy Tomm said...

Love the photos. I would love to go to Cairo. I have a horse and quilt friend that went a few times. She has friends that do long distance horse riding and has stayed for a few months at a time. She bought back some appliqués and one was much like the horse one behind on man in your photos.

Tonya Ricucci said...

there aren't nearly enough tourists on that street! should be packed full of people buying. lovely work.

Fabraholic said...

You certainly have my attention! Beautiful work and the colours...

Linda A. Miller said...

Amazing colors and patterns...tragic that tentmaking art is dying..may it blossom into something new and wonderful. Thanks for the tour!

Sandy said...

OMG!! They are all so exquisite! Maybe if they get more attention through the internet, a museum or gallery will show their artwork and the Tentmakers will survive. I sent this post to some of my quilting friends to help spread the word.

I envy your trip to Cairo. I was asked if there was one country I wanted to visit where would I go. My answer - Egypt.

Carole said...

Nadia, you had my attention at the first photo but you got my awed attention with the beautiful colours and designs the tentmaker use. I can imagine a tent would be expensive but they must be spectacular! Thanks for the tour. xo Carole

bj said...

Ah, just beautiful! Thank you so much for transporting us for a short time to Cairo...a trip we may never take. But, for those few minutes, we were entranced by the color and vitality. You may consider yourself a jet-setter :o)

Muddling Through said...

Nadia, what a feast for the eyes! Those are some beautiful photographs. I had no idea the inside of tents would have such beauty.

Gina said...

Thank you for this tour! Learning a little about Amr adds a special appeal to these gorgeous pieces. It's sad to think the tent makers may become extinct.

Michele said...

Wow! That is fascinating! Thanks so much for telling us about the tentmakers.

norma said...

These are incredibly beautiful and the handwork looks impeccable. What a shame to think that their art might be going away. Thank you for sharing these beautiful works of art.
There's no such thing as "an overload of color and design" Can't wait to see what you have in store for us.

Julie Fukuda said...

Thanks to you for posting these amazing quilts ... and to Sandy who sent me the link.

Linda said...

Fascinating!

Linda C said...

The tent makers visited Australia a few years ago. l wish l had known more about them, l would have paid more attention. Thanks for reminding me about them.

Sujata Shah said...

Oh.. My mind stopped functioning looking at these quilts. They are amazing! There is so much talent out there! In India, tents are called, "Tambu" They are also all embroidered and appliqued. I can't wait to go back home this year and study more of the Indian quilts.
Truly inspiring post!

Katie said...

Amazing work. I love this post. I would be interested in researching more of this too. I love seeing all the places you get to explore and learn about.

JennyPennyPoppy said...

Wow - what a memorable experience and the work they do is absolutely fabulous. Thanks for the wonderful post!!