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Magic Carpets and Woven Air by Ayesha Gamiet
Like many children, Rezia Wahid used to love picking dandelions and watching the seeds scatter as they were blown about in the wind. But unlike other children, Rezia’s fascination with dandelions stayed with her until later and now provides the inspiration for her artwork. It is the light, transparency and softness of dandelions that Rezia aims to capture in her hand woven textiles. Not only that, but for she sees dandelions as a metaphor for the way in which God has created human beings and, “like seeds, spread us into the world within different nations and cultures so that we can get to know one another”.
“We are surrounded by the beauty of nature, God’s attributes which we need to celebrate. As artists we have the opportunity to view, feel and create from the beauty of nature; thus we have the power to express and draw attention to the beauties of God” she told me. It is the two core influences of Islam and nature that have inspired Rezia’s work – two interconnected themes that reveal her exploration into how the signs of God are manifested in the natural world around us. Her emphasis on light and transparency can be interpreted both as an attempt to express, and as a yearning for the divine light – a crucial theme in all disciplines of traditional and modern Islamic Art.
In many different cultures, societies and religious traditions throughout the world, both the act of weaving and the finished cloth has associations with the sacred and supernatural. In some places the weaving process is considered a sacred act, or even a divine injunction. In other cultures textiles are deemed to possess supernatural qualities, or give the wearer magical powers of protection and invulnerability. In the Middle East, this is best illustrated with the example of the fabled magic carpet.
Rezia Wahid practices a rare style of weaving called ‘ikat’, meaning “to tie or bind” in Indonesian. This unique technique involves dying the yarns before weaving them together on a loom, resulting in beautiful and often intricate designs. However, as the yarns are dyed before production, the pattern only becomes apparent upon weaving. The Balinese consider this as a metaphor for God’s ultimate knowledge of His design in creation that is revealed to humans only by His leave. There are templates for popular patterns, but original designs need to be very carefully planned and measured. ‘Ikat’ production is therefore a very complex and time-consuming process.
Looking at Rezia’s work, it comes as no surprise that she has also been inspired by traditional Bangladeshi fabrics called ‘baf-thana’ meaning ‘woven air’. Considering the delicacy and softness of these fabrics, ‘woven air’ is definitely an appropriate description of Rezia’s work. The technique used to weave these fabrics is called ‘jamdhani’, a way of inlaying motifs such as Rezia’s leaf patterns into the main cloth. The ‘jamdhani’ technique from Bangladesh has produced the finest muslin in the world.
“The term ‘woven air’ triggers a magical thought in my heart which inspires me to weave”, says Rezia.
The concept of purity is emphasised by the transparency of the fabric, which allows light through and is indeed as soft and weightless as a dandelion seed! The dominant feeling that Rezia’s work provokes is an atmosphere of tranquillity, harmony and peace. And her decision to combine contemporary, subtle designs with a traditional weaving technique gives her work a unique edge. The word ‘revival’ springs to mind – interestingly, revival of traditional weaving and the theme of the revival of Islamic spirituality seem to be expressed simultaneously in her woven cloths. Traditional and understated yet radical, light yet substantial, it seems like a part of Rezia’s dynamic personality has been woven into her textiles.
Rezia Wahid is currently a Textile Technology and Art and Design secondary school teacher. She is passionate about travelling and woven textile art, and her weaving occupies most of her spare time. Rezia produces textiles for fashion and home interiors. She regularly exhibits her work and has previously donated pieces to auction for charity. Her work is currently on exhibition at Livingstone Studio, 36 New End Square, Hampstead, London. In September 2003 Rezia Wahid will be exhibiting abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Work is available to commission and purchase for made to measure interior pieces, scarves and shawls via appointment at her workshop: Cockpit Arts, Studio 306, Deptford. For more information about Rezia’s work please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.woven-air.com
Q News Mar-Aug 2003 | Jumada AL Thani 1424 Issue No. 349 www.q-news.com