Fansina Artisans, EgyptEGYPT | 2015
SECTION OF DRESS: Floral herb motifs
Inspired by the herbs peppering the mountain sides above St Catherine’s, these artisans are supported and empowered through the creation of their delicate floral embroidery.
The largest commission on the dress was carried out in 2015 by Bedouin Jabaliya women working for the social enterprise ‘FanSina’ (meaning art of Sinai) in Egypt’s, Sinai.
The initiative was founded and continues to be run by Selema Gabaly, and supports women in poverty through the creation of beautiful, embroidered handicrafts which are now sold worldwide. Selema and her family live in a small mountain village called St Catherine’s at the foot of Mount Sinai, about 6 hours drive from Cairo.
I had the pleasure of receiving some funding for this commission, from embroidery enthusiasts based in the UK who also know the region and Selema well. Along with paying for the commission itself I was also able to visit FanSina myself with the whole dress, which was incredible. To be able to spend time with Selema and her family, sip mint tea whilst chatting about embroidery, motherhood, and her invaluable work - all against the backdrop of the sparse and endless dessert and the Sinai mountains was incredibly special.
In total 50 women worked for 1 month on a large section of the skirt measuring 4m x 2m. Their work is inspired by the local herbs that pepper the mountainside, and I recently learnt the Jabaliya are the only Bedouin tribe in the Sinai Peninsula who create non-geometric embroidery designs.
There was already a base layer in gold created in Paris at the start of the project, which the artisans chose to follow and embellish with their circular motifs. They also stitched a small flower at the centre of the spider’s web on the bodice back, and a number of exquisite large blue and red floral shapes which are now on the skirt and one of the sleeves.
The empowerment these artisans have as a result of having their own income is hard to imagine. The independence and security, not to mention support and sense of community is life changing.
If you’d like to know more about FanSina, purchase some handicrafts or commission some work please see the website: www.fansina.co/store or message Kirstie to be put in touch with Selema Gabaly directly.