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Nada Debs x 81 Designs weaves an artistic tale with ‘On Belonging’
The project revolutionises the use of traditional embroidery such as Tatreez and cross-stitching
Image: All images courtesy Studio Nada Debs

Nada Debs x 81 Designs weaves an artistic tale with ‘On Belonging’

The collaborative collection brings together homelands, history, heart and soul into a collection that unifies people across geographical boundaries, through craft and culture.

by Nada Debs
Published on : Dec 04, 2021

UAE social enterprise 81 Designs and Lebanese designer Nada Debs unveiled a new collaborative collection at Abu Dhabi Art, the annual art fair (November 17 to 21, 2021) held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

The collection titled, ‘On Belonging’ is a culmination of a six-month project inspired by Palestinian artist Nabil Anani’s ‘In Pursuit of Utopia’ which is a picturesque portrayal of his imagined homeland envisioned as one immaculate landscape, without division or disruptions. Reimagined by Nada Debs and her brand ethos that follow the ‘handmade and heartmade’ tag line, this collection features seven Crafted Pebble chairs and Straw lamps, created by pushing the boundaries of craft, geography, art and community for a deeper sense of connection and compassion tied to homeland and history. As an ode to the Golden Jubilee of the UAE, the seven pieces represent the seven emirates, while the craft revives a sense of belonging connected to the culture of Lebanon and the art pays homage to the land of Palestine.

“Our mission is to narrate the artistic tale of old traditions. Our collaborations allow us to empower the refugee artisans we employ by providing them with sustainable jobs. Our collaboration with Nada Debs reflects a strong sense of community and the fusion between craft and design,” shares Nadine Maalouf, co-founder of 81 Designs. “Despite the challenges faced by the team of artisans within the 81 Designs workshop located in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, this collaboration was possible due to the resilience of the women behind the work and is a testament of their commitment to tradition and craft,” says Maalouf.

As a true craft-custodian and educator, Nada Debs’ vision for new materialism comes to life through the design process and creative collaboration which weaves emotion into furniture and design by adding depth to traditional Palestinian cross-stitching. “My work is about identity, restoring and elevating traditional craft and instilling a sense of belonging. By revisiting roots and working with refugee artisans, this project was an infusion of identities and a heartfelt dialogue conveyed via craft, relaying messages of hope and freedom, dignity and identity,” says Nada Debs. Talking about the ‘On Belonging’ collection, Nesrine Maalouf explains of the challenges faced by the artisans, “Since 81 Designs workshop is located inside the Ain El Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, the team of artisan women faced major challenges stemming from the country’s grave economic crisis, with power cuts, water and petrol shortages, not to mention the camp security restrictions, and ongoing COVID health pandemic. We are very proud of what these ladies have achieved,” she says.

For the Co-Founders of 81 Designs, this project is a reflection of their passion to bring together artists and artisans, creators and designers, to weave together design, craft, art and culture by revolutionizing the use of traditional embroidery such as Tatreez and cross-stitching. “I wanted to revive the sense of belonging which is universal and intrinsic to all human beings, and this collection taps into that sense of identity, purpose, longing and belonging,” shares Nada Debs.

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