x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Nada Debs designs You & I carpets for the Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative

The Lebanese designer says the effect is representative of a line from Rumi’s poem A Moment of Happiness: 'Apparently two, but one in soul' 

Nada Debs at Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative's production site in Kabul. Courtesy FBMI
Nada Debs at Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative's production site in Kabul. Courtesy FBMI

“I believe in the handmade and the heart-made,” says Nada Debs. It’s more than just lip service – the Lebanese creative was one of the first to incorporate traditional Middle Eastern crafts and motifs into contemporary furniture design. Her most famous pieces feature arabesque patterns carved into rich maple and ash woods; mother-of-pearl inlay sweeping across the front of cabinets, or juxtaposed with resin to stunning effect; and buttons shaped like traditional Ma’amoul pastries adorning headboards and sofas.

Given her support of “makers”, her most recent collaboration, with the Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI), is a perfect pairing. FBMI was launched in 2010 and employs local Afghani women to hand-weave carpets using age-old techniques that might otherwise cease to exist. Since its launch, FBMI has hired more than 3,000 Afghani artisans, 70 per cent of whom are women, and 35 per cent of whom are widows, and thus the sole breadwinners in their families.

Carpets are crafted using vegan dyes and materials sourced from within Afghanistan – either fine hand-spun cotton sourced from the northern regions, or wool sheared from free-range and hormone-free sheep that live in the country’s mountains and plains.

“Nada Debs’s essence resonates with that of FBMI,” notes Maywand Jabarkhyl, the executive director of the initiative. “Her interest in producing and working closely with artisans and authentic craftsmen made it an obvious choice for us to enlist her,” he adds.

FBMI commissioned Debs to create a series of contemporary rugs titled You & I, and the fruits of their collaboration were unveiled at Abu Dhabi Art. They will go on to be shown at Dubai Design Week from November 13 to 18.

Debs visited FBMI’s production site in Kabul on various occasions, where she met with the weavers. “It is impossible for me to design in a vacuum,” she says. “I draw much of my inspiration from sitting with the craftspeople, feeling the material and feeding off the energy emanating from the process.”

The resultant series of carpets seeks to strike a balance between the old and the new – and to highlight how design can act as a bridge between different cultures. The carpets are defined by their atypical shapes, consisting of overlapping circles, squares and rectangles. What starts as a plain colour scheme gradually darkens as it moves from one end of the rug to the other, and ends in a crescendo of pattern. According to Debs, the effect is representative of a line from Rumi’s poem A Moment of Happiness: “Apparently two, but one in soul”.

The designs are in keeping with FBMI’s efforts to reinstate carpets as prized items, rather than mere accessories. As Debs explains: “It is with this mandate in mind that we have designed the rugs; the different approach to patterns, the varying levels of wool and, most importantly, the unconventional shape focuses the attention and establishes the rug as an anchor around which the space is set up.”

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Read more:

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The style list: making of a Bulgari handbag, by Nicholas Kirkwood

Small-scale philanthropic initiatives do make a world of difference

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