As Great As Your Dream

Contemporary Khayameya Wall-Hangings


This collection of hangings made by skilled craftsmen in the street of the tentmakers in Cairo continues a long Egyptian tradition of decorating homes and public places with hand-stitched Khayameya textiles, creating an uplifting, joyous mood.

In creating this collection, we draw upon this tradition, producing wall hangings that respond to the world around them today, capturing sentiments and scenes of contemporary and modern Egypt.

Our theme for this exhibition is the many different states of dreaminess – from the universal dream of prosperity and of plenty, seen in gardens and perfectly ripe fruit, to the dream of tranquillity so perfectly captured by the gentle movement of feluccas sailing unhurriedly up and down the Nile. Some pieces reflect the active process of dreaming – the dream of education, often that of parents for their children, the dreams of the state, currently orchestrating its vision of an Egyptian renaissance, and even the mundane dream of personal autonomy and adventure, captured so well in scenes of
young tuk-tuk drivers, zooming around the more informal areas of Cairo.

As the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote, “The earth
expands to encompass your dreams.”


This exhibition reflects on the Khayameya craft itself – celebrating its artistic
traditions. A few examples reproduce antique pieces to understand their conventions of scale and colour. In most of the works, we have drawn upon
these traditions to create something new. Such a process is true of any living craft – for over 1000 years, Egyptian craftsmen making Khayameya have combined tradition with experimentation in different measure, depending on the craftsperson, the mood, the client, and the occasion.

For us, the process of creating these pieces is a surprisingly long and intense one. Using pen and ink, paint, and design software, we piece together the components of each design. Some pieces take 20 or 30 design trials. Then there is the process of translating the design into fabric. Sometimes the perfect colour is only available in a fabric that is too thick or thin, and we have to go back to the drawing board.

We work through a reflective, collaborative process, hanging the finished
pieces up, standing back and thinking of whether we need to add some
stitching, or add more patterns.

Our process mirrors the collaborative tradition of this craft. Historically the
Khayameya technique was used to produce large tent panels. Four or five
people would work on each panel together, enjoyably passed the time,
thinking, chatting, and stitching.

This collection echoes that spirit of intense, but pleasurable, labour.

Seif El Rashidi & Naila El Shishiny

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