Reviving the Dying Craft of Kilim from Egypt's City of Fuwa
Social enterprise, Kiliim, hopes to help inspirit and flourish the kilim-making industry in the Egyptian city of Fuwa by crafting stylish tapestries.
Small ripples, swinging tides, and glowing shades of blue sparkling under the harsh sun – vividly and transparently the Nile River gently flows, caressing the edges of greenness and the surge of life it grows and sustains. There reside the people of Fuwa, a city that lies on the Nile’s Delta, engulfed by colour and bounded by earthy nature. Nature serving as the first inspiration of humankind, and crafts being the first form of art created, the people of Fuwa took up kilim weaving hundreds of years ago. Today, the craft is being embraced by Kiliim Egypt, by adding a modern twist while still maintaining the authentic craftsmanship.In the hustling, bustling grey city of Cairo, unmoved and exhausted by the corporate life, Ibrahim Shams – when looking for a kilim rug for his daughter – discovers the wary situation of the kilim-making industry. He is then inspired and decides to join forces with his graphic designer wife, Noha El Taher, to create Kiliim Egypt. “What good are you doing for the country or the people?” was a question always lingering in the back of his head during his five years of corporate work, Shams tell us, while El Taher made social entrepreneurship a central theme in all her teachings. The kilim is a traditional textile, often a rug or carpet, made of the flat-weaving technique, patterned with colourful designs projecting facets of tradition. The custom is perpetuated by generations of Fuwan families, serving as their livelihood and canvas onto which their expression of character takes place. However, as with all traditional crafts, the prevalence of cheap technology and the establishment of a globalised hyper-capitalist competitive market have left the kilim-making industry struggling to survive. Cheap labour and the domination of China-made products have unfortunately coupled with the plummeting of tourism, threatening the maintenance and the sustainability of the craft and the income of craftsmen.Both Shams and El Taher embarked on creating this social enterprise – Kiliim’s initiative aims at reviving the tradition, and subsequently the business of kilim-making in Fuwa, by offering new and modern designs made through the original technique in collaboration with artisan and local craftsmen from Fuwa. The designs are comprised of kilim rugs, mats, pillows, and custom-made outdoor and indoor seating and furnishings, all made of wool and cotton textiles. The initiative not only acts as an illustration for a social enterprise, but it also aims at rejuvenating a heritage and a time-honoured technique, and the sustainability of indigenous people associated with it. It also serves as a great representation of how technology and the Internet can revive withering industries, and put them back on the map. Kiliim Egypt – using the couple’s expertise in sales, entrepreneurship, and design, and aided by new forms of customer outreach – will definitely be able to promote the kilim industry and enlighten both the socially responsible consumer and the aesthetically driven one.
The tapestry products are colourful and have creative and cute designs with a folkloric twist. You can order them online and support a traditional struggling industry in Egypt and a local business, while still furnishing your home – indoors and/or outdoors – with high quality handmade designs. Kilims make for a great décor statements for floors and walls, and are perfect for people who love colour, tribal designs, and appreciate craftsmanship.