Brazilian designer, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council engage in cross-cultural exchange

SHARJAH, 7th November, 2018 (WAM) — The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, Irthi, an affiliate of the NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, NAMA, welcomed renowned Brazilian fashion designer, Martha Medeiros, for two days at its Bidwa Social Development Centre in Dibba Al Hisn in Sharjah.

The visit facilitated a cultural and crafts exchange where the artisans of the Bidwa Social Development Programme showcased adaptations of three crafts: Talli (traditional hand-woven braids), Safeefah (traditional palm-frond weaving), and embroidery, whereas designer Medeiros demonstrated Brazilian lace-making and embroidery techniques.

Medeiros was introduced to Irthi’s vision in bringing these traditional crafts, practised for generations, to a larger audience, modernising them to create contemporary products, while empowering productive Emirati women who practice these handicrafts by enabling them to generate a sustainable source of income and achieve professional and social empowerment.

During the visit, Medeiros witnessed live demonstrations of the traditional crafts of Talli and Safeefah by the Bidwa artisans and was presented with samples of previous work and learned about Irthi’s achievements throughout the years, which have materialised through the support and patronage of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of NAMA, Founder and Royal Patron of Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, and wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah.

Medeiros is a passionate fashion designer who utilises handmade lace as the essential material in her designs, particularly for elaborate dresses and evening gowns. Traditional Brazilian handmade lace is mainly crafted by women in the Northeast of Brazil. Medeiros works with approximately 400 lace artisans and maintains a close relationship with them, dedicating a percentage of the proceeds of her sales to support them financially and socially.

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said, “It has been a great honour to host Martha Medeiros and learn about traditional lace making and how she was able to transform the lives of women in Brazil. This visit affirms the strong ties that Irthi has established with craft organisations and designers in Brazil, following our recent participation at the Sao Paolo International Book Fair.”

“Martha has always been a huge advocate for empowering talented women and raising their crafts’ intrinsic and economic value, which is a shared goal of the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council. Our Bidwa Social Development Programme empowers women by enabling them to generate a sustainable source of income and achieve professional and social empowerment while preserving and modernising the crafts for future generations.”

“The lace-making demonstration allowed our artisans to learn and widen their knowledge base. Through such cross-cultural sharing of skills, knowledge, and experiences, we aim to build artisans’ skillsets and increase the growth and economic impact of the crafts,” she concluded.

“Cultural exchange is always highly appreciated. I believe that together we can show the world that it is possible to combine contemporary fashion and traditional crafts. The main goal of our work is to raise the value of all kinds of crafts and transform them into desirable items for high-end markets,” Medeiros remarked.

“Our lace artisans have succeeded in completely changing their lifestyle through their incomes, where they started to play key roles in their families. This is women’s empowerment in the purest sense,” she added.


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