By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
The cultural heritage of Kuwait has a rich history of arts and handicrafts dating back centuries. The Bedouin Kuwaitis were famous for their brightly woven rugs, tapestries and calligraphy. However, with the discovery of oil in the late 1930â€™s the reliance upon handicrafts began to fade as the country morphed into an oil rich nation with newfound revenue to import products from all over the world. Today, the vast majority of Kuwaiti society is more interested in the latest fashions straight off the runways of New York and Milan than crafting.
World-renowned Kuwaits artists like Thuraya Al-Baqsami and Khazaal Al Qaffas have kept a flicker of hope for the Kuwaiti art scene burning brightly for decades. However, over the past few years a veritable art revival has been quietly taking place. A minority of Kuwaitis are increasingly becoming more interested in art and handicrafts. Over the past couple of years, hobby shops and art supply stores have started opening up at record pace. And business is booming.
The renewed interested in arts and handicrafts in Kuwait remains a mystery. In the USA and Europe, for example, a surge in interest for homemade handicrafts is often tied to a problematic economy as people try to save money by making things at home or even selling their wares to earn an income. The Kuwaiti economy has not only survived the years long economic turndown, but it has also flourished. The only discernable reason for the revival of arts and handicrafts is that many Kuwaitis are looking to get back to their creative roots.
Not only are there an abundance of arts and crafts suppliers in Kuwait, but there is also a wealth of handicraft classes complete with instructors now available to teach everything from jewelry making to painting. One of the most recent handicraft supply shops, LB o Jâ€™zazz – Beads and Things, also offers between 40-60 handicraft classes per year. Owners Lubna Seif Abbas and Bettina Al-Bakhit offer workshops complete with all the materials necessary to complete the crafting project from start to finish. In a recent interview, Abbas shared, â€œEach class is project-based. I think that everybody has creativity, it is just they need somebody to show them the basics, they need good tools, and time, and we have lots of time here in Kuwait. If anybody is bored, just let them come here. We will fill time with something useful and joyful to do at the same time. There is so much that we can do. People now seek to perform arts and crafts, and they look for some
thing deeper while enjoy doing it.â€
The future looks bright for the handmade revolution in Kuwait as even members of the expatriate community are even getting in on the crafting. Abbas revealed that an increasing number of non-Kuwaitis are expressing interest in her courses and several are taking part.