History of the Tentmakers of Cairo

Impact: Cultural Impact, Social Impact

Impact story summary

In 2012, Dr Sam Bowker observed that Henri Matisse’s painting ‘Interior with Egyptian Curtain’ (1948) depicts a historic form of khayamiya applique, leading to the observation that the art history of the Egyptian tentmakers had never been surveyed or published. The unique art of khayamiya was almost excluded from the history of Islamic and Egyptian art.

The art of the Egyptian tentmakers was threatened with extinction by modernisation and marginalisation, obliterating cultural heritage. For example, publications pre-2012 did not link the oeuvre of the tentmakers as a group or their oral histories and omitted the genre now defined as Khedival khayamiya. To address this, Dr Bowker's research structured the unpublished history of khayamiya through exhibitions, films and books that engaged new audiences. Khayamiya now appears in surveys of Islamic, African, Egyptian and textile art history. The term is used by museums, auctioneers, artists and journalists, creating an extensive online presence (the Egyptian tentmakers have more than 15,000 followers on Facebook) and promotes online sales (via an Etsy store managed by the Tentmakers) that improves the economic viability and social esteem for khayamiya as both craft and heritage in Egypt.

Since 2007 the Egyptian Tentmakers have toured to numerous international quilt exhibitions with private philanthropic and NGO support. The global number of tentmakers increased in number from 80 to 100 since 2007. Since 2012 Charles Sturt research has documented over 250 Khedival khayamiya globally.
Impact date2012
Category of impactCultural Impact, Social Impact
Impact levelBenefit

Countries where impact occurred

  • Australia
  • Egypt
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Malaysia
  • Netherlands
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Croatia
  • Italy
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Sudan
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • Israel
  • United Arab Emirates

Keywords

  • Khayamiya
  • Egypt
  • Applique
  • History
  • Cairo
  • Tentmakers
  • Islamic art
  • Textiles
  • Craft
  • Khedival