To empower women artisans in the UAE and the region through the crafts, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), is organising a virtual training course in Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery to benefit 15 Emirati women trainees.
Held via video conferencing platforms, this course is part of a new training programme launched by Irthi in February 2020 in collaboration with Majida Abu Zaghlan, fashion designer and owner of Jordan-based label and social enterprise, Saru Fashion.
Over the course of the programme, the Emirati women trainees aged 18 – 45 years, will receive skills training in at least a dozen types and techniques of Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery.
The trainees have embarked on their virtual lessons with an introduction to the intricate traditional Palestinian ‘Minjal’ (sickle) stitches. The daily lessons, hosted by Majida Abu Zaghlan, are followed up in coordination with Irthi’s team in Sharjah.
According to Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to seek innovative solutions as we adopt all preventive measures to ensure the health and safety of our artisans. Moving to an online and remote environment is key to our next phase of growth, and to take forward our commitment to empower women through the crafts.”
“By going virtual, we are adapting to the restrictions imposed by the current circumstances and yet, harnessing them positively to enable women to continue to learn and develop their skill sets and eventually fulfill their ambitions of embarking on their entrepreneurial journey. The trainees will continue to receive Irthi’s support and can take advantage of our extended networks to reach out to international designers and fashion houses, as well as launch collaborative, creative projects that highlight the true value of traditional handcrafts,” she added.
The progress of the trainees, and the effectiveness of online tutoring will be assessed in depth by Irthi as this is the first virtual training course in the crafts sector in the UAE. BinKaram noted that the results of the assessment will guide the Council in deciding on the possibility of further extending the training course via video conferencing platforms.
Stretched out over several phases, the first part of the training programme saw the trainees learn three Jordanian embroidery patterns including ‘Fallahi’, ‘Ragmeh’ and Jordanian ‘Minjal’.
Emirati artisan trainees will also learn the popular couching embroidery of Jordan, explore Bedouin floral patterns, and familiarise themselves with the basic embroidery elements of a traditional Palestinian ‘Thobe’, a black, colourfully embroidered dress. They will also learn how to incorporate colouring techniques to enhance the design’s appeal, as well as key techniques used for men’s garments.
Meanwhile, Irthi had also hosted several craft activities and workshops that focus on introducing different weaving techniques for children and youth on its Instagram platform @irthicouncil to step up its commitment to preserving heritage crafts and passing them on to young generations. Organised through Irthi’s Hirfati youth programme, these virtual workshops comprised of bracelet and basket weaving that can be done within the confines of the home.