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KW23_HE_AlSaduHouse_Sheikha Bibi Al Sabah_PORTRAIT

KUWAIT - Health & Education

Sheikha Bibi Al Sabah

Chairperson, Al Sadu Society

Bio

From teaching accounting at university to the philanthropic work of heading Al Sadu Society, Sheikha Bibi Al Sabah is involved in empowering the culture and business of Kuwait. She focuses on innovation and education through both the professional and voluntary work. Among her international achievements, she became an accredited NGO advisory for UNESCO. Her efforts led to securing the art of AlSadu weaving on the representative list of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. She also played the major part in developing and implementation of the art of weaving within the National Curriculum at the Ministry of Education. She was also granted AD HOC observer status by WIPO.

"The Al Sadu Society started as a project in 1978 by a group of concerned Kuwaitis with a unified goal of preserving the traditional Sadu weaving of Kuwait."
Founded with the goal of preserving, promoting, and reviving Kuwait’s traditional textile arts, Al Sadu Society has played a major role in raising the prominence of Sadu weaving and leading to its rebirth in the country.
What is the mandate and origin of the Al Sadu Society?

The Al Sadu Society started as a project in 1978 by a group of concerned Kuwaitis with a unified goal of preserving the traditional Sadu weaving of Kuwait. Each member came in with their own expertise that helped to solidify the cause. One example is my mother Sheikha Altaf Al Sabah, an anthropologist by study, who addressed this project academically with a drive to make it a sustainable one. Her passion led to the formation of the Sadu project in 1991, which soon became a weaving cooperative of the name Al Sadu Weaving Craft Cooperative Society. The mission of the society was to preserve, promote, and revive Kuwait’s traditional textile arts and related skills with the contemporary milieu. It is supported by the founding master artisan shareholders and run by a board of members of which I am the Chairperson. As a weaving craft cooperative, Al Sadu Society shares are owned by the master weavers and artisans themselves. Sadu weaving is one of the oldest and most prominent traditional crafts in Kuwait and on the Arabian Peninsula. It has been an integral part of Bedouin nomadic life and goes back thousands of years. It is not only one of the oldest of crafts but also a highly developed one.

What activities and initiatives have you explored through Al Sadu Society’s work?

Currently, we consider ourselves a cultural center for crafts and creativity of passionate artisans, artists, art teachers, and textile enthusiasts. We have been active in promoting and enhancing the public’s awareness and interaction with the craft by organizing workshops, exhibitions, artists, and attracting international bodies such as UNESCO, WIPO, and UNHCR, to name a few. Among the initiatives that we have been working on, the most prominent ones focus on knowledge and skill transfer related to the tradition of Al Sadu weaving. The program has changed the way the craft has been taught and relies on modern methodologies to transfer the kills. Traditionally, Sadu weaving was practiced by women only, but as our initiative continues to grow, we are doing our best in giving opportunities for men to participate in this traditional craft. Over the course of our activity, we have addressed the issue of safeguarding intellectual property for traditional knowledge and folklore by registering Al Sadu Weaving as a collective mark in accordance with guidance from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). We have also created a Sadu Art & Design Initiative (SADI) program that encourages creativity and innovation. Every year, emerging artists from various creative backgrounds are invited to take part in the program and immerse themselves in the beauty and intricacies of Sadu weaving and design repertoire, researching its past, present, and future through workshops and seminars. Based on our 40-year worth of research, we have established art modules for schools, pushing for the craft to become a part of the national educational curriculum, as it is undoubtedly a part of Kuwaiti heritage. We have been collaborating with UNESCO as an accredited advisory member to the committee and have just had “Train the Trainers” program accepted as best practices for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage UNESCO offering our community’s skills and knowledge to the wider audience. We have been asked to advise similar centers across the GCC in creating their own societies and fostering their traditional crafts. We have a MoU with UNHCR on empowering displaced families through training. They are trained in the skills of the craft so they can produce, showcase, and sell their works through our platform ultimately financially empowering themselves. Finally, we have recently started exploring the idea of “Practicing Craft as Therapy” and are in the process of researching how becoming present, while weaving and concentrating, can allow our participants to alleviate anxiety and reduce stress. We are extremely hopeful about these findings and want to develop them further.

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