Fashcultivate is an exhibition co-curated by Emirati fashion designer/curator Khulood bin Thani and Fatma Al Mahmoud (Head of 1971 – Design Space, Sharjah) to celebrate date palms (Phoenix Dactylifera) for being one of the most cherished gifts of nature and their importance throughout the history of human civilization. Date palms have become part of the cultural and historical identity of the Gulf Region. They also play an important role in the region’s economy, with the UAE rated globally as the 6th largest producer of dates.
Rich in their long history, the seeds of the trees were believed to have travelled to the region 7000 years ago through traders of the ancient world and their nomadic lifestyles from places where the date palms were originally cultivated, such as the Indus Valley (now Pakistan) to Mesopotamia (now Iraq), the Nile Valley, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa. The date palms gained their highest appreciation within the Arabic Islamic culture and were frequently mentioned as both a fruit and a tree in the Holy Qu’ran. Different parts of the trees have been utilized for different purposes: for example, the tree trunks were used to support tents, frameworks and structures of human dwellings, while the leaves were incorporated in floorings, baskets and mats. The branches were used for making roofs whereas the seeds and dates became ingredients for making soups, oil-based perfumes, Kohl eyeliners and, of course, date syrup.
For this exhibition, seven gulf-based designers were invited to work on commissioned pieces within textile design, contemporary couture fashion and more in relation to the topic of the date palms– by referencing the trees’ various functions, fibres, compositions, colours, structures, nourishments, haptics and their sheer beauty as well as uniqueness at large in their creations. True to the exhibition title, Fash-Cultivate, the commissioned designers researched the date palm tree extensively, thereby defining certain narratives, aligning them with their own ideas and merging them in their final, hand-crafted results that will be on display at 1971 – Design Space, Sharjah, from 2 November 2019 – 8 February 2020.
The curators and Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council has developed a research with Dr. Sandra Piesik where findings has resulted in new materials being fabricated out of the date palm which is on show at the exhibition.
The exhibition theme is also mirrored in the accompanying, bespoke exhibition design itself, created by Sharjah-based Interior/Product Designer Alya Al Ghfeli.
Asma Al Mazrouie (UAE), Faissal El-Malak (UAE-Based), Hala Kaiksow (Bahrain), Hessa Al Suwaidi (UAE), Khalid Mezaina (UAE) Maryam Omaira (UAE) and Shahd AlShehail (KSA).
Image courtesy of – 71 Design Space, Sharjah