Inspiring Heritage: Students graduate from Cairo’s Jameel House of Traditional Arts

Reham El-Adawi , Wednesday 11 Sep 2019

A Mameluke chandelier and ceramics with mediaeval Islamic motifs were among the highlights at the graduation ceremony of 21 students of the two-year programme at the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo.

Launched in 2009 by Art Jameel, the Cultural Development Fund of Egypt and the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (Prince Charles’ charity in support of the world’s traditional art forms), Jameel House is a centre for the study of traditional arts and the preservation of heritage.

The ceremony, which recognised the centre’s ninth class, took place last Thursday at the Jameel House, in the Al-Fustat Traditional Crafts Centre located in Old Cairo.

Present were Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem (who handed out the graduation certificates), head of the Cultural Development Fund Fathi Abdel-Wahab, Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts Executive Director Khaled Azzam, Outreach and Open Programme Manager at the School Delfina Bottesini and many alumni, who connect with fresh students of the Jameel House via an alumni association and participate in the annual alumni exhibition.

According to Mamdouh Saqr, director of Beit Rizk programme at the Jameel House, “We noticed this year a significant development in the graduates’ work and their confident, articulate presentation skills. This year, two students who specialise in brass work created replicas of Mameluke metalwork: a table and a chandelier. The results are impressive and indicate the potential of creating works for museum shops in Egypt. Most of the students who specialise in woodwork were keen to make furniture pieces such as desks, tables, gates and sofas. This was challenging for some of them, but again the results were satisfying. The ceramics group created a variety of designs for plates and decorative panels that showed how they were able to draw inspiration from various sources and references.”

In line with Art Jameel’s focus on preserving cultural heritage, including traditional arts in Egypt, the programme develops the students’ abilities to apply the foundational skills they learn during the programme to both contemporary design and restoration.

The programme also focuses on securing job opportunities for its students within the fields of art and design, and many of its over 90 graduates have gone on to teach at academic institutions, venture into the world of furniture design, and give successful art exhibitions.

Art Jameel’s current initiatives include running heritage institutes and restoration programmes, in addition to a broad range of arts and educational initiatives for all ages. The organisation’s programmes foster the role of the arts in building open, connected communities; at a time of flux and dramatic societal shifts, this role is understood as more crucial than ever.

Art Jameel also opened a Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, and is to open the Hayy Creative Hubb in 2020 in Jeddah.

The fresh graduates’ work is on display in a public exhibition, free and open to all, from 5 to 12 September, 10am to 3pm, at the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo in the Al-Fustat Traditional Crafts Centre.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Inspiring Heritage*

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