Collection Item of the Month
Egyptian Tapestry, c. 1970-1974
Attributed to the Kunooz Tapestry Workshop
The Kunooz tapestry workshop was among the first schools of weaving to open
as a result of the Wissa Wassef Art Center’s successful program. Located only
a few miles away, it aspired to follow the same creative concept and teaching
philosophy as the older establishment. In the 1970s when the tapestries in
LASM’s collection were made, the Kunooz school was led by four families
and housed in two of the members’ homes. One of the teachers was Saadia
Ibrahim, who began her weaving career as one of the hand-picked students in
Ramses Wissa Wassef’s experimental program.
An architect and professor at the College of Fine Arts in Cairo, Dr. Wissa
Wassef (1911-1974) claimed that every human being is “born an artist, but
his gifts can be brought out only if artistic activity is encouraged from early
childhood by way of practicing a craft.” He believed that inspiration should
spring entirely from within, fuelled by contact with one’s own environment.
To this end, he established three rules: 1) no preliminary sketches or cartoons,
and no copying from other works of art; 2) no external aesthetic influences;
and 3) no critical interference from adults.
The children were taught to weave in the traditional methods of their ancestors.
To inspire the imagination, they were taken on outings and encouraged to
visualize their design concept. Their ideas were verbalized and the colors,
sizes, and orientations of their tapestries were decided in advance. The most
common subjects were of village life and the natural world as well as fantastical
scenes. To maintain spontaneity, the tapestries were kept rolled up while
weaving, preventing the whole image from being seen until completion. Over
time the children’s confidence in their artistic and manual abilities grew, and
each developed his or her own distinctive style.