Fansina Artisans, Egypt

EGYPT | 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.


OUR SUPPORTERS

A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 344 individuals around the world via a Crowdfunded campaign in 2020.

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The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
I can't remember when they embroidered that piece of silk (2018?) but I feel that something has changed since. The fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before. Last year, I sent them a drawing and asked them to “interpretate" it the way they wanted; again it came back with a lot of emotions, another beautiful story. Thank you for giving them this opportunity
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa (supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA)
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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