Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Lesli Robertson.


As a Fulbright Specialist in Kuwait in 2015, I was introduced to a textile known as sadu, which loosely translated means “moving at the pace of a camel.“ This rich textile has been a part of the traditionally nomadic Bedouin culture of the Middle East, and is front and center in fast moving Kuwait. Hugging the shores of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait is at the intersection of desert and gulf, a nation full of progress, forward thinking, and contemporary approaches to practically everything. On Gulf Road, right in the heart of Kuwait City sits the center of sadu weaving, Beit al Sadu, an organization focused on finding a way for this traditional woven textile to function within contemporary culture. Throughout Kuwait and the region, sadu weaving is a symbol of both traditional and contemporary culture. Artists, designers, and now craft producers from outside are appropriating the symbols and designs into their work, whether it is for a laser cut book cover, or tile motif on the local Aquarium, or “sadu” cloth mass produced in Pakistan. The value placed on sadu is evident, but many people are not aware of the ongoing tradition of woven cloth. A goal of Al Sadu House is for the community to continue to embrace the cloth itself, while continuing to preserve the heritage and future of sadu weaving. Through examples from Kuwaiti culture, interviews with weavers and patrons, I will discuss the ways in which this textile is viewed and the work that is being done to shift the focus from these symbols, to the rich history and present making of the cloth itself. I will present the ongoing project titled Weaving Stories, a collaborative community based exhibition that aims to foster an understanding and appreciation of sadu and the artisans who create it.