From the Traditional to the Surreal

An exhibition of textile art from the Tentmakers of Cairo

Saturday 15th June - Saturday 13th July 2019

Following on from their successful exhibition in 2017, work by the Tentmakers of Cairo will once again be on show at Fisherton Mill. The pieces range from wall hangings worked with the geometric patterns and classical calligraphy associated with traditional Islamic art, to those depicting exuberant, almost surreal, images of birds and butterflies – a decidedly contemporary approach to this ancient artform.

The pieces on show are made by craftsmen from the old tent-making quarter of Cairo, who use the traditional technique of handstitched appliqué, building up their designs with coloured cotton panels stitched onto a cotton ground. Originally these wall hangings were worked with abstract patterns and were used to decorate the inside of tents during ceremonial events, but in the late 19th century the industry was given a new boost by tourists wanting hangings worked with pharaonic scenes as a souvenir of their Egyptian travels.

And now, in the 21st century, the industry has once again been given a fresh burst of life with the tentmakers developing innovative designs, and embracing a strikingly original colour palette. This is partly a consequence of the growing international exposure that the Tentmakers have had in recent years but, more significantly, it reflects their increasing artistic confidence and willingness to develop new, contemporary designs. As a result, the Fisherton Mill exhibition will include eye-catching hangings worked with unexpected subjects such as exotic birds feeding amongst brightly coloured flowers, as well as the more traditional-style hangings depicting pharaonic scenes and or those worked with traditional abstract patterns and prayer arches – thus guaranteeing something for all tastes.

Admission free. Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm;   Saturday, 9.30am-5.30pm

As part of this exhibition, the curators are doing a talk at Fisherton Mill for you to learn all about the history and process of the Tentmakers. The talk will trace the evolution of tentmaking design from the traditional patterns of the 19th Century Khedival Revival period through to the exuberance of their contemporary work, exploring the external influences that prompted those changes and the new designs which resulted from them.  The talk will be illustrated with examples of tentmaker art from throughout this period which the attendees will be most welcome to study.

Entry to the talk is free but places need to be booked in advance, please book your tickets here or email us for more information.