from smiling bahrainis lesson in basketmaking
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Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
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From smiling Bahrainis, lesson in basket-making

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Egypt Today, egypt today From smiling Bahrainis, lesson in basket-making

Turning fronds of palm trees into baskets.
Manama - Egypt Today

A few metres from the posh cafés in one of the largest malls on the outskirts of Manama, Abdul Ridha, in his white thobe, sits pretzel-style on a simple couch, turning fronds of palm trees into baskets.

While basket weaving and craftsmanship are often considered to be on the verge of death, the Bahraini is vibrant proof that although modernism is the dominant way of life, old traditions are still alive and well in Bahrain.

“It is fascinating work and I love doing this every single day,” Abdul Ridha told Gulf News as his fingers adroitly weave leaves into a basket.

“I enjoy taking something that has come to us blessedly from nature and turn it into something that is both beautiful to look at and useful to use. Anyone can learn how to do it, and once you are good at it, you do not want to give up. It can be a profession like in my case, or a hobby, for some others,” he said.

For ages, Bahrain has been known as the “country of one million palm-trees”.

“Come and sit next to me, and I will show you how easy it is,” he said, extending a hand towards me with a broad smile that adds gentleness and humility to his character.

Once settled on the small makeshift chair next to him, I am told to follow his moves and memorise them. It looks so easy.

But after Abdul Ridha pushes the awl into my right hand and the palm-leaves into my left, the challenge becomes apparent.

As I hesitate and stumble, he gives out a hearty and friendly laugh at my blatant lack of deftness and patiently shows me how it is done.

Abdul Ridha grew up in Karbabad, a small agricultural village west of Manama, where there are a multitude of palm trees. For centuries, many residents of the village have worked as artisans, taking advantage of their rich natural environment.

The fronds were mainly from Karbabad, although they at times imported dyed leaves from India that added special colours to the products, mainly hand-held fans.

“Like many of the villagers at the time, I started weaving palm leaves and fronds when I very young. I think I was five when I took up the craft. I had not even started school,” he recalled.
“It was more or less the natural thing in Karbabad at that time. We did not have the facilities and entertainment possibilities the young people of today have, so it was normal that weaving held a significant place in our everyday lives. When I did go to school, the mornings were spent in classrooms, but the afternoons were used to deepen our knowledge of weaving.”

“My father was my top teacher. We did not have a formal class, but rather something close to private workshops. In all cases, it did not take us long to acquire the skills. As we moved on, we too became ‘teachers’ and showed younger people how it is done.”
But not everyone is interested today.

Abdul Ridha has four sons, and only one of them developed a liking for sitting cross-legged and using an awl to turn fronds into baskets or hats or holders of home items.

“You have got to have the passion to do it; otherwise, it would be a waste of time and energy. When I was young, I often ditched football and volleyball matches and made up excuses in order to help finish a hat or a basket. I had a strong drive for weaving.”
His motivation was so strong that when he graduated from high school, he took up a position in the government sector in order to be free in the afternoons and pursue his hobby.

“In the 1970s, like today, the private sector offered higher pay, but it also required longer hours. That was not for me. I was satisfied with the money I was making working for the education ministry and I was happy to go home before 2pm. My afternoons were free and I used many of them to weave.”
Even after he got married, his passion did not diminish.

“My wife was very understanding ... she fully appreciated what weaving meant to me.”

Today, after having secured an early retirement, Abdul Ridha is working in the handicraft centre set up in the Capital Mall, near Karbabad and next to the upmarket Seef district.

Bahrain recently set up several centres to revive and maintain traditional crafts and encouraged visitors and tourists to watch Bahraini craftsmen weaving baskets, hats, mats and other items in Karbabad or engaged in pottery making in Aali, cloth-weaving in Bani Jamra, wood carving in Jasra and dhow building in Muharraq.


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from smiling bahrainis lesson in basketmaking from smiling bahrainis lesson in basketmaking

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