Back in Kuwait: 2 August 2010 – Dr Keireine Canavan

Early this morning, twenty years ago Kuwait was invaded by Iraq; 2 August 1990.  This began the first Gulf war.

I am back in Kuwait to continue my research about traditional Sadu weaving at Sadu House, and I have met many people here with fascinating and very frightening personal stories about the invasion; men, women and young adults who were children at the time.  Also, there remain many scars upon the landscape & remaining architecture as a constant reminder of the seven-month ‘oil’ war.  There was a real sense of fear and dreadful torture, and the impact is still very raw.

Interestingly, there was a massive impact upon the symbols and motifs used in post-invasion sadu textiles, which is something I am documenting in my research. Bedouin master weavers have reported to me that after the Iraqi withdrawal and the return of Kuwait to its people, greater respect was paid as a sign of thanksgiving by all Sadu weavers, and figurative forms were not depicted as symbols woven into the sharjarah textiles, although other symbols such as war-planes and guns appeared.   Some twenty years later, I have noticed at first-hand, a slightly more relaxed attitude by some Sadu weavers, however most conform to not depicting figurative forms that reflect the living spirit and in turn, continue to create beautiful geometric motifs and patterns.

British conservator, Kirsty Norman was working at the Islamic Museum in Kuwait at the time of the invasion in 1990.  I have listened with great interest to the current BBC Radio 4 programmes titled The Quiet Invasion: Part 1 & 2, where Kirsty paints a picture of her own personal experiences and the atrocities that happened to the museum collections.


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