DESIGNEAST’s exhibition, titled ‘(Un)common Threads’, is giving the underexposed medium of textiles a well-deserved and long-awaited platform this week in Dubai.
Rue Kothari, Founder and Creative Director, DESIGNEAST
Given that storytelling lies at the heart of all artforms, it is, perhaps, frustrating that a medium so well suited to narrative-sharing as textile art has struggled, over the years, to gain the exposure it deserves.
However, an exhibition under way at A1 Warehouse, Alserkal Avenue, the renowned cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, aims to help right that wrong.
Titled ‘(Un)common Threads’, the show marks a launch project for DESIGNEAST, an initiative set up by Rue Kothari which is championing innovative and sustainable design businesses in the Global South through a multi-faceted, community-platform approach, and Associate Director Mira Hawa.
Nayla Ahmad: ‘I had other Plans’
Textiles are both a professional and personal passion for Rue, whose impressive career path includes stints as Editor-In-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors and the Director of Downtown Design in Dubai.
“My grandfather owned a textiles factory in East Africa, so they are very much part of my own story,” she explained. “However, despite being the oldest form of visual narrative and one uniquely able to translate the nuances of culture, environment and technique, textiles remain an underexposed medium.”
Samia Halaby: ‘Inaash’
‘(Un)common Threads’ gives textiles the platform they deserve, but also does much more, exploring, for example, how they intersect with architecture, art, fashion, interiors sound and tech, through strange materials, found fibres, organic matter and traditionally woven threads.
“We wanted to challenge our artists to experiment with space, dimension, beauty and materiality - to create something truly unexpected, while also helping emerging creative communities to thrive in the global market,” Rue said.
Ghizlane Sahli: ‘La Mer(e) Origine du Monde, 022’
The result is a glorious array of 17 installations, each telling its own fascinating tale through a combination of colour, fabric and technique, by artists based across the Global South, from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Palestine to Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“Each piece tells the story of the artist’s vision and the infinite variations of how a life, a community and its values can be woven into a single moment,” Rue explained.
Zak Ové: ‘Blue Devil’
Highlights – and there are many – include a huge quilt by Nayla Ahmad, made in Qatar during lockdown and aptly titled ‘I had other Plans’, which features intricately crafted illustrations of messages and moments in time related to the pandemic. Visitors will also find a vibrant, multi-hued embroidery floss on canvas by the Palestinian artist Samia Halaby named ‘Inaash’, a silk thread on plastic and metal piece by Ghizlane Sahli, from Morocco, cleverly titled ‘La Mer(e) Origine du Monde, 022’ and an incredibly detailed ‘Blue Devil’ crochet cotton lace doilies by Zak Ové, among others.
Rue has been committed to involving both communities and the diaspora with the launch of DESIGNEAST and, as a reflection of this ethos, is keen for this show to travel. “Our mission is to elevate these artists and designers, to educate the wider market on their unique value and to help connect the two via digital content and real world pop-ups,” she explained. Against that backdrop, pop-ups are already planned for London, China and the US.
‘(Un)common Threads takes place at A1 Warehouse in Alserkal Avenue.