Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Saudi Arabia inscribed on the Unesco List

Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Saudi Arabia inscribed on the Unesco List

Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Saudi Arabia inscribed on the Unesco List

  • 10 December 2017
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Al-Qatt Al-Asiri was on Wednesday added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Al-Qatt Al-Asiri is an art form deeply rooted within the identity of the southern region in the Kingdom, and practiced exclusively by women. It can be seen decorating the interior walls of guest rooms in Asiri homes.
Women draw geometric shapes and tribal symbols and paint them in vibrant colors to make their guests feel welcome. During the creative process, female relatives design masterpieces on the walls, bringing about a sense of solidarity between them.
The Saudi Heritage Preservation Society (SHPS), along with the Kingdom’s permanent UNESCO delegation, were participating in the 12th session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage on Jeju Island, South Korea, when the news broke.
“We filed Al-Qatt with UNESCO back in 2016 and we continued to strive to provide further information regarding its intricacies until it was inscribed during today’s session,” Rihaf Qasas, SHPS project manager, told Arab News.
“I wouldn’t describe it as a struggle; we just had to collect enough data and fill in the gaps, and we did it.
“This is so important because it keeps this traditional art that’s existed for ages from being buried. It ensures this culture is documented for generations to come, and it acquaints the world with the magnitude of the Kingdom’s heritage,” Qasas added.
On their future endeavors with UNESCO, Qasas said the SHPS could only register one file every two years. The Janadriyah festival will be registered next year, and the Kiswat Al-Ka’aba (the Holy Mosque’s cloth) in 2020.
The most distinguished practitioner of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, Fatima Abou Gahas, dedicated her life to sustaining and teaching the art until her death in 2010.


Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration, is an ancient art form considered as a key element of the identity of the region of Asir. It is a spontaneous art technique carried out largely by women today in the community that involves decorating the interior walls of their houses, specifically rooms for visiting guests. Women invite female relatives of various age groups to help them in their homes, thereby transmitting this knowledge from generation to generation. The base is usually white gypsum and the patterns consist of icons of geometric shapes and symbols. In the past, only women practised the element, but nowadays male and female artists, designers, interior designers and architects practise it, including on other surfaces. The art enhances social bonding and solidarity among the community and has a therapeutic effect on its practitioners. The application of the art in most households ensures its viability within the community, and local individuals have created galleries within their houses in order to safeguard it. Observation and practice are the key methods for transmitting the practice from one generation to the next, and societies, NGOs and individuals all play a key role in safeguarding, promoting and transmitting the related knowledge and skills.

 


Source: Arab News and Unesco.org

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