The symmetry of khayamiya and quilting: International relations of the Egyptian tentmakers

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The tentmakers of Cairo or khayamin (derived from the Arabic word for tent, khayam), can demonstrate ongoing engagement with changes in the usage, composition and production of their traditional craft: khayamiya (Egyptian tentmaker appliqué). These changes have resulted in new patronage from quilters, moving khayamiya from a locally marginalised folk product to global recognition as a spectacular Egyptian craft. This collaboration highlights the long-term engagement of nonEgyptian audiences by the tentmakers, who have responded to changing local conditions and attitudes by directing their work to the interests of foreign collectors, rather than the local Egyptian market. In turn, this has prompted new evaluations of their largely unexplored history.1
By reviewing these changes, it will be shown that contemporary khayamiya serve longstanding cultural imperatives that are both Egyptian and nonEgyptian. For over a century the tentmakers have engaged with orientalist
imaginations without losing their cultural foundations. Their collaboration with quilters presents a logical continuation of their adaptability to
exigencies that has enabled them to sustain their distinctive and diverse craft. In turn, this mutual engagement has resulted in the deeper
contextualisation and reappraisal of khayamiya as contemporary craft.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-60
Number of pages31
Journalcraft + design enquiry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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