Al Jasra Handicraft Centre was established in in this picturesque village to provide support to Bahraini craftsmen and women, and to promote and market their products. A group of women from Jasra come daily to weave the colourful dining mats. They are keeping alive this traditional skill, but in a manner that now meets modern tastes. Many of the basket weavers are men too and they make decorative baskets for dates and other items. Brightly coloured cotton cloth is woven and used for men's clothes, home furnishings and shawls. Traditional cloth weaving can still be found today in the village of Bani Jamra. Teak imported from India and Nepal is used for its strength and hardwearing quality.
As dhow building has declined, there has been a boom in the building of model dhows, often by the sons and relatives of former dhow builders. Evidence of pottery making in Bahrain goes back many thousands of years. The last vestiges of a once thriving craft industry, with centres in the villages of Naim, Ras Ruman and Muharraq can still be found today in Muharraq and near the Pearl Roundabout. At the Heritage Festival held every spring, we are filled with wonder at handmade items on display. Traditional cloth weaving can still be found today in the village of Bani Jamra. I am particularly fond of the gypsum plasterwork on the older houses and mosques with its repetitive geometric and Islamic motifs. Wool products, though not traditional to Bahrain, incorporate hand-weaving skills and make use of wool, which used to be thrown away here. The craft has been passed down from mother to daughter. These models are also made with a great deal of care and attention to small details and look just like real pearling, fishing or cargo dhows. At the turn of the last century the pearling industry employed 17, divers and their helpers in a fleet of over dhows. The Craft Centre Gallery in Manama, housed in Bahrain's first technical school, was also established in They are very welcoming and you can sit and watch them at work as they deftly weave the mats from plain and brightly coloured dampened palm frond leaves. There has been a cross fertilisation and sharing of ideas, which have enriched the local culture and art. Today commissions for dhows are mostly received from a few private individuals and local museums. Bahrain certainly has a thriving arts and crafts scene. The potters who start in the early morning work in a way that looks almost effortless, but this belies the skill, steady hand and patience that are required. A group of women from Jasra come daily to weave the colourful dining mats. It is a place where you will find an abundance of artwork and handicrafts, with a blend of the traditional and the modern and a fusion of influences from near and far. Some 60 or more artists submit their work and the exhibition provides an exciting overview of the work of Bahrain's talented artists. The wool is washed and handspun in the village of Diraz and woven into top quality products like mats, cushions, rugs and carpets which are sold through the centre. The Al Naqda embroidery project employs a number of young women who recreate the traditional gold and silver thread embroidery on women's gowns, shawls, cushion covers, place mats and other items. The pottery in A'ali is always a favourite destination for visitors, locals and school children who love to see the making of the pots on foot operated wheels, as much as they come to browse around the pottery shops and to buy. By Heather Anderson There has always been a rich tradition of arts and crafts in Bahrain, going back many thousands of years to the Dilmun era. A generation ago there were many basket weavers in the villages of Karbabad, Jasra, Budaiya and Riffa. In the souks you will find traditional handicrafts and even in modern shopping malls there is the influence of traditional architecture, and stained glassware. From paintings, charcoal sketches, watercolours, pottery, ceramics, sculpture and mixed media there is evidence of a very active art scene in Bahrain. As much as Bahrain is developing and the new and the modern are everywhere, there is a growing interest and reverence for the old traditions and the work of artisans and artists.
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