‘It’s the dream of every carpenter is to own a Fabrica and I thank you for that, and for all the ideas you gave us,’ stated Mokhtar, the young carpenter as he showcased his latest wood item. The shelves/side table are lego like, can be assembled differently and have no visible nails to show.
Last week, the British Council in Cairo launched a very unique exhibition with a rather long title that sums it all up: Design, Brand, Craft Exhibition by CLUSTER and Peacock for Arts is one of the projects under the Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) programme.
DICE supports the development of creative and social enterprises in the UK and five key emerging economies: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and South Africa.
Aiming to foster inclusive growth and progress on UN Sustainable Development Goals, Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies will take an innovative, cross-sectoral approach that draws on UK expertise in creative and social economies.
The workshop redefines creative industry, according to Omar Nagati, founding partner of CLUSTER, a grouping of architects and urban planners. In an opening speech he highlighted two such workshops implemented in Fayoum and Ard El-Lewa entailing collaboration between college students and experienced craftsmen and the aim to go green. FAODA Association in Fayoum and Hawamish in Ard El-Lewa (rural Cairo) helped coordinate aspects of the workshop programme.
The results were amazing. Among the chairs, desks and various modern home accessories, a crib stood out.
The crib, made from palm leaves rather than traditional bamboo, was the brain child of Shaimaa Ismail, interior designer and fresh graduate in 2019 from Sixth of October University in applied arts.
The workshop was held in Al-Agameein village in Fayoum governorate, where they used to make a whole chair without using a single nail. Such designs can be made without having to import anything.
"‘I love curved lines, because we are all curved in shape. You will never find a sharp angle in nature, so I used the idea that palm leaves are natural materials and will eventually curve up in time, and I created a crib, which is curved, and will be sustainable for exactly the time that the child will need it until the child outgrows it,’ Ismail told Ahram Online.
Ismail added how much she learnt from her firsthand experience with craftsmen with whom she was able to find a language based on trust in their experience while following through with agreed upon new design.
To Dalia Salem, founder of Peacock, which is an entity that introduces art in public places through partnership with artists and designers, the idea was clear. "I was very interested in the idea of creative industries with functionality. I read the call for proposals, and we partnered with the testing and marketing and design, so that we are sure that the final product is connected to the market." "CLUSTER have great experience in architecture, and urban planning,” she said.
Fayoum is a culturally rich governorate close to Cairo. With CLUSTER, Peacock also implemented projects in Ard El-Lewa.
"They didn’t know they can do more. So we introduced the workshop," Salem added.
A separate workshop in Ard El-Lewa was held on wood.
"Through Fabrica (a small wood factory located in Ard El-Lewa), we were able to introduce new wooden forms and units that you assemble."
"We are currently thinking of taking it a step further by connecting with Concept stores, to see how the market can fit the needs of Egyptian consumers," Salem added.