Themes: storytelling, consumerism, craftsmanship.
There were times when we wanted to promote our culture to tourists and after taking them on a tour, we wanted to wrap it up with that amazing gift that summarizes our culture for them to take back home. Unfortunately, if your choice is to be spontaneous you are only left with salt & pepper shakers of a fat woman and a thin man or a teddy camel. Options for us locals feel so disappointedly touristy. Shouldn’t culture feel more authentic?
The crafts that are handmade then sold hold much more authenticity than those “Made in China” toys. Through our interview with Mariam Al Kindi, we learned that traditional crafts made by women who love making those crafts translate our culture and its stories into tangible objects that portray a deeper sense of our authenticity to people who aren’t familiar with it. Mariam is the Director of the Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts a home-grown organization that trains, employs, sources materials for craftswomen to empower them to earn their own income and be part of a supportive community. Through our interview we were utterly inspired by her and her thoughts, this article is all about that.
Value of The Maker
Back in the day, Arabs did these crafts as a survival method, they used the wool of their beloved animal to wear and help them survive the changing conditions of being nomadic. They weaved the leaves of their beloved palm trees to make bags, baskets and houses. They put love and value into their crafts, and that is where their own value lies. Now, as we have become modernized, no longer using those sources to keep ourselves safe, we appreciate them even more. Those crafts remind us of our culture. Even though culture is constantly evolving due to the exponential change we went through, we now categorize our culture as “before and after the discovery of oil”. Yet, this does not mean we cannot incorporate those beloved crafts into our modern lives, and that is what Al Ghadeer is doing.
Within Al Ghadeer
One of the most mesmerizing points we came across during our interview with Mariam is that more than anything, Al Ghadeer cares about the human aspect, they care about who made this specific piece and how it will affect their lives positively. They enable women to be independent and bring in the income they need to survive, all by doing what they love. Once you give a woman a steady income, especially with the use of her labor, she automatically has the strength to have a voice within her household, thus empowering her in many ways. We, as the consumers, cherish the products because they have the human touch into it and the piece holds more value than what it looks like or how it’s used. By buying locally, hand-made products, you are supporting a person, a whole family, and an environmentally conscious industry.
Consumerism has led us down the path of fast fashion, which is extremely unhealthy and unsustainable. In Al Ghadeer they ensure to provide the women with a community and an environment that’s supportive and encouraging. As Mariam says, many of the women work there not only for the income but for the strong sense of community that they find there. The craftswomen love making those crafts, that’s why mass producing isn’t something Al Ghadeer is willing to go with right now, it takes away what the craftswomen love, the technique of making traditional crafts is relaxing and therapeutic, a machine cannot take that away from them.
The importance of producing a product from ethical sources is beyond measure. According to Mariam, when sourcing materials that are organic, fair-trade, natural, and without ridiculously haggling the supplier you end up with a product that is made consciously, benefitting every person that’s involved in the process, the supplier, the craft maker, the consumer.
When we first spoke to Mariam our thoughts on the piece is how do we learn to mass-produce culture and export it. After our conversation, the dialogue went from making more to start thinking about creativity and culture and how this generational craftsmanship can be commercialized yet remain authentic. What was shocking to know is that Mariam is a student of industrial management who had dreams of opening a glass studio which is how she ended at Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts supporting skills and craftsmanship.
This article is not about preaching culture, it is about your ability to learn any skill and monetize it. It is also to remind us that our ancestry and the land we fall under its skies was a land of makers and of survivalists who look at less as plenty and worked their magic regardless of conditions to make and live. In the words of Mariam: you will do, then you will become. Let’s change our story from consumers to markers one step at a time.
You can learn more about Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts, by following their Instagram page or website. You can also think differently about your ways of gifting and hey, if you like creativity give them a call and see how you can collaborate.