DUBAI: The Saudi Pavilion at Dubai’s Expo 2020 has been an important stop for visitors since the much-anticipated event opened to the public last week.
The rectangular facade, which features a 1,320 square-meter inclined mirrored screen, is designed to showcase the Kingdom’s ancient culture and heritage, the wonders of its natural landscape, as well as the rapid drive of its present and future ambitions.
Among the cultural offerings that the pavilion boasts are workshops aimed at teaching international guests and children traditional Saudi crafts, including palm leaf weaving and Al-Qatt Al-Asiri.
Al-Qatt Al-Asiri is an art form deeply rooted within the identity of the Kingdom’s southern region — and it is practiced exclusively by women.
To demonstrate this art form, Saudi artist Afaf Dajam was on site this week painting on a clay pot to demonstrate how these beautiful objects are created.
In an interview with Arab News, the artist said that she particularly looking forward to praciting the craft with the children who visit Expo 2020, adding that she had created templates for children to paint on using various coloring techniques, including water paint and acrylics.
Dajam fascination with Al-Qatt Al-Asiri was sparked when the art form was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017. After that, she undertook extensive research into the craft.
“This research turned to love and passion,” she said. “I started searching for it in old homes in Asir, and I documented it in my own studio.”
Her “documentation” examined how the art form started and how it developed. “Around 100 years ago, they used to only use two colors: black and red… Now, they use the five famous colors for Al-Qatt Al-Asiri: yellow, red, green, white and blue,” she told Arab News.
To teach visitors about the craft of the palm leaf weaving, the pavilion invited Saudi creative Habib Abdullah Al-Farhan to display colorful baskets, bowls and mats.
The artist, who has created more than 5,000 items in his career, first started weaving when he was 13-years old, before he took a hiatus. For the past 14 years, he has dedicated his career to creating versatile objects from palm leaves.
Al-Farhan has worked with regional restaurants and international brands, including Mothercare and Turquoise Mountain.
The workshops take place every day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the pavilion’s Palm Garden and from 5 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. in the building’s Open Square.