: Young Egyptian visitors who came on trips to connect with their heritage, were among the highlights of Turathna exhibition. Photo by Amira noshokaty
The fifth edition of the Turathna (Our Heritage) Exhibition of Egyptian heritage handicrafts (8-14 October), featured over 1000 Egyptian artisans aiming to join the global market.
"'Egyptian crafts going global' is the slogan of this year's edition, and indeed many steps were taken to put the handicrafts on track to the global market, “explained Hisham El-Gazzar, consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to Ahram Online.
El-Gazzar added that this year and for the first time, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with Egypt's Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA) sent a foreign procurement delegation to see the exhibited products.
This year’s edition was diverse, with over 1000 handicrafts of Egypt displayed. Blown glass, copper, inlaying, talli, textiles, Akmiem’s embroidery, and regional crafts from Siwa, Sinai, and Nubia were all featured prominently.
The crafts sold at Turathna are outstanding not only for their beauty but their everyday functionality as fixtures of everyday Egyptian life. One such example is the pottery of Grace Village.
“Grace is a village in Monofia, we were always famous for the traditional qolla (pottery water flask) and zeir (drinking water cylinder container ),” explained Amr Fawzy a potter of Grace to Ahram Online. “ He added that for the past 7 months, the local pottery artists have been trained all about quality control and making new designs and functionalities to the typical pottery.
Grace is a small village in Menoufiya governorate, where 80 houses make traditional pottery items that range between 1 to 5 LE per item,” explained El-Gazzar, also one of the consultants of Grace's product development at UNIDO.
"Being one of the oldest villages that work in pottery, we tried to enhance quality, toy with the traditional sizes and think of new functions for it,” he told Ahram Online. The results were impressive. The regular qolla (water drinking pot) is now of a much better quality and has new modern designs. Its tip can be used either as a vase or a drinking flask, and also as a built-in water irrigation system where the pores of the clay distribute the water it holds into soil. There were also specially designed clay pots for birds to nest, and feed."
“It was challenging to change the mindset of the artisans, especially when it came to quality control and pricing, but when they saw how much they sold on the first day of the exhibition they were convinced,” El-Gazzar said.
Right across from Grace's pottery, another booth showcased beautiful dresses, bags, and scarves, embroidered in talli style with traditional Egyptian motifs in silver and gold.
“I have been working in talli ever since I was 12, for over 30 years,” talli designer Shimaa El-Naggar told Ahram Online, adding that she believes talli to be more an art than a trade. Now El-Naggar’s designs are hand-stitched by her as well as 400 other women artists.
“I learnt patience from talli; it is exhausting work for women to coordinate their eyes, hands, backs and minds. In the old days, women would give talli to their daughters as wedding gifts. Now, I do not want it to be limited to weddings; I want it to be worn on all occasions and hence provide job opportunities for more women."
Yasmine Kesk’s jewellery
Sitting amidst her precious handmade jewellery and handmade crochet soft toys, Yasmine Kesk greeted customers with a warm smile. Being visually challenged did not stop her from pursuing her dream of working as an artisanal craftswoman.
“This is my fourth year joining the exhibition, and I have been making jewellery and handmade soft toys for the past 10 years,” said Kesk.
Also on display was the colourful pottery of Fustat, Cairo’s oldest pottery market.
Ahmed Khalil inherited pottery from his father and has been working in this craft for 20 years. “The best thing about pottery is the endless shapes that you can make with it,” Khalil concluded.
This edition was a milestone for the promotion of traditional handicrafts, both to the Egyptian market and new markets worldwide.