x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Reinventing the majlis

Rami Farook, the owner of Traffic Gallery is a man on a mission - a mission to bring together Arab tradition and contemporary design in completely new ways.

Rami Farook and Katrin Greiling with material samples for the Bidoun Lounge majlis seating.
Rami Farook and Katrin Greiling with material samples for the Bidoun Lounge majlis seating.

Rami Farook, the owner of Traffic Gallery is a man on a mission - a mission to bring together Arab tradition and contemporary design in completely new ways. And, in Antonia Carver, of the contemporary arts organisation, Bidoun, he has found a kindred spirit. For Art Dubai they are collaborating on a lounge space, with exhibition areas showing films and performances by other Middle Eastern arts organisations, as well as those commissioned by Bidoun, and a lounge and coffee bar where daily talks will be given, focusing on Middle Eastern art.

"The lounge is a catalyst for an idea that I have been thinking about for two years or so," says Farook, explaining his fascination with the way the traditional majlis has evolved over the years and his desire to reinvent it in contemporary style. (One of the briefs for last year's Traffic design competition was to design lounge seating.) "The fact that the majlis emerged from the nomadic tradition seemed so perfectly in tune with the temporary nature of Bidoun's lounge," he adds. "It felt like the perfect thing at the perfect time."

With the intention of developing an "in-house" furniture line that would encapsulate Arab-Western design philosophies in a chic but affordable way, Farook had already asked Katrin Greiling, a Swedish-German designer now resident in Dubai, to join his team at the beginning of this year. "Then, with the Bidoun idea, things went a bit crazy," he laughs. "Usually it takes two to three years to develop a new idea like this; with Bidoun we have had two to three months."

The design brings together Greiling's love of the desert ("I spend most weekends near Liwa, usually with Bedu families I have come to know there") and Farook's childhood memories ("When we wanted to play we would stack up all of the cushions"). While the fabrics have been provided by the Danish-American company Kvadrat Maharam, the furniture is truly a product of the UAE, thanks to a manufacturing collaboration with Marwan workshop in Al Quoz.

Farook describes the furniture to be installed in Bidoun Lounge as "a test version of a work in progress". "And, after four or five days of it being used and even abused, we will know whether we are on the right track." Bidoun Lounge will be in the car park of Madinat Jumeirah during Art Dubai, from March 17 to 21. www.bidoun.com www.viatraffic.org