Research Activity Update



Sadu House museum, Kuwait

Kuwait Textile Arts Association Lecture:

‘Camel Trappings and Contemporary Textiles’

12 April 2011


As Research Fellow to the the Al Sadu Weaving Society, Dr Keireine Canavan recently delivered a lecture at Al Sadu House textile museum in Kuwait.


The lecture discussed camel trappings and associated textile decorations, with their elaborate patterns and decorative tassels, and compared images of Cardiff School of Art and Design Textile students’ work from the Zari Kuwait Design competition, as examples of contemporary designs inspired by ancient al Sadu textiles, for digital applications.



Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah. The al-Sabah Collection.  Kuwait.

Cultural Season 16:

‘Weaving in the Arabian Peninsula: Historical Traditions and Future Prospects’

25 April 2011


The lecture reviewed the regional cultural trends and historic context of weaving in the Arabian Peninsular, with an emphasis on the semiotics of Bedouin weaving in Kuwait.  As part of the DAI: Cultural Season 16 lectures, the presentation discussed the research being conducted by Dr Canavan in collaboration with the Al Sadu Society, Kuwait, in an effort to preserve declining memory, practice and awareness of traditional weaving, as well as explore the modern challenges facing expressive craft, once crucial and vital in Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.  Oral histories collected from the few remaining master-weavers add a unique and very personal look at this important subject.


The lecture was documented in full.



Qatar National Museum

Field Research: 26 – 28 April 2011


Dr Keireine Canavan, as Research Fellow to Al Sadu Weaving Society, Kuwait, was invited to the Qatar National Museum to consult on the al Sedu textile collection for inclusion in the new National Museum of Qatar, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.




SOAS: School of Oriental & African Studies, London

The Camel Conference 2011

23 – 25 May 2011


The focus of Dr Keireine Canavan’s recent paper at the Camel Conference 2011 was based on the important aspects of the camel upon traditional and contemporary Bedouin Sadu weaving practices, and the variety of creative camel symbolism within the decorated textile panels (sharjarah) of the woven tent divider (gata).


A recent research project with Bedouin master-weavers, informed and developed new woven camel symbols, and created contemporary woven camel trappings for exhibition, which messaged the weavers’ current integrity and tribal respect for the camel, plus their aesthetic observations of the remarkable creature.




Gulf Conference 2011

29 June – 2 July 2011

Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, Exeter University


Traditional Bedouin al Sadu Weaving of Kuwait: Current Practices and Future Developments.


‘Today, due to rapid regional cultural and economic changes in the Arabian Gulf, where hand made glimpses of past traditions are the only faint reminders of the past, it is obvious that many of the regional traditions are fast disappearing in the face of mechanisation and modernism.


Due in part to the settlement of the Bedouin people and rapid economic developments, the requirement of Bedouin traditions has diminished, and the number of weavers has declined considerably; in fact many of those who remain are in their autumn years of life, leaving only a few women who retain the knowledge, the skills, the memories and the oral history.


Due to widespread illiteracy, nothing is written down, and while these textiles still retain a role today, particularly with the older generations, at traditional ceremonies and on special occasions, Bedouin weaving in the main has lost it’s importance as a utilitarian and vital cultural craft form.


The significance of preserving this cultural identity, with all the associated knowledge and skills, is crucial if is not to be lost forever.  The young generation are familiar with computers & digitalised imagery and CAD/CAM production.   It is my opinion that if these regional textiles are to be recognised to value the cultural heritage that they portray, it is by means of improved preservation and storage of extant textiles, and the investment of academic research, and beyond existing educational programmes, both in Kuwait at Sadu House and in Oman, I believe further educational awareness is required.


I further believe it is a duty, that we, who are concerned with material culture and traditional crafts, and their place in civilisation need to blend the traditional and the contemporary, to encourage the mix of hand craft and digital application to ensure a future for these textile traditions.   A commitment to inspire the next generation and to create new designs and applications is required if we are to sustain something of this beautiful and majestic Arabian tradition for the future’.




Muscat Field Trip, Samayal Weaving Centre, Oman

UWIC Travel Bursary

2 – 8 Sept 2011



In process of writing-up field trip data

Visits to;

Samayal Weaving Centre

Bait al Zubair

National Museum

Natural History Museum

Museum of Oman Heritage

Omani Heritage Gallery



Samayal Weaving Centre, Oman


Exert taken from Keireine’s field notebook :


‘It was the first day of Ramadan.  The girls were excited to receive me and I was greeted with great respect.  There was much hilarity and everyone was happy to share their enthusiasm with me, although they had been informed that I was visiting the previous day and had been disappointed when I did not arrive.


One elderly lady sat ‘pulling through’ – threading the heddles.  I was told that she was very happy. 


Twenty girls had enlisted on the one year training project at the weaving centre; only twelve remained.  I was shown the looms; small table looms and inkle looms for narrow woven trims and braids, and larger floor looms where the girls wove headscarves.  There was no sign of the traditional shajarah technique, nor symbols and motifs, only stripes in pre-dyed cottons with wool and cotton warp threads.  Colours were dull; moss green, dull purples and rich ochres, unlike the usual bright colours of black, red, orange and natural white.


There was a commercial outlet where scarves and larger mechanically produced textiles were sold, alongside pottery, silverwear and frankincense.

I bought a headscarf.  7OMR Omani Rhials (about £10.00).


I asked about traditional Bedouin weaving and while the girls knew about it, and where some of the ‘old weavers’ lived; they knew nothing about the patterns or symbols.  Traditional weaving was not part of their training’.   




Forthcoming Events:


Goldsmith’s London University ‘Material Matters’ Conference

14 October 2011

Paper Title: The Semiotics of Sadu Iconography



University of Wales Institute Cardiff –  WIRAD: DIGIT Research Group

24 November 2011

Lecture Title: Unwritten Narratives of Bedouin Women Weavers



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6 responses to “Research Activity Update

  1. Being a Ceramic’s student from Howard Gardens, I came to this lecture with an open mind and not really expecting it to have any affect on me, but I was surprisingly wrong. I found myself connecting with the subject, also finding how Dr Canavan spoke to the audience really interesting and easy to listen to.
    I now know more about Al Sadu weaving then I did before I walked into room 0023, and could quite happily tell others about process of the weaves themselves.

    • alsaduweaving

      Dear Cherry – thank you for your kind comments. I am delighted you were affected by and responded so positively to al Sadu textiles; there is such history and culture embedded into them, I find the subject fascinating.

  2. I found the Al Sadu Weaving lecture really interesting, particularly how the Bedouin’s use symbols to tell the stories of everyday life within their weaving. I think it would be incredibly sad if the ancient knowledge of these people is lost, and I think the work being done to document and save these traditions is brilliant. The background information and photo’s of Kuwait really helped me to understand more about the country and see the weaving’s within context. I enjoyed learning about the Bedouin culture and how important the textiles are.

  3. Ciara Mc

    I found this lecture highly informative and interesting.Although the presentation was of a textile based nature rather than a ceramics based nature.I found myself become completely abosorbed by the techniques, culture and history of the Al sadu textiles. I found it highly fasinating the signifigance of preserving the cultural techniques and processes. 😀 good work:D:D:D

  4. The lecture I had about Al Sadu’s weaving was amazing. It was very interesting finding out about each symbol on each piece and how some pieces have a beginning and no end. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this lecture being a Ceramics student, and I think that learning about this skill and work will help me in my own.

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