Erotic Tapestries Impressed by Conventional Egyptian Crafts

5 years in the past, the French textile designer and illustrator Louis Barthélemy was growing prints for Salvatore Ferragamo whereas splitting his time between Paris and Marrakesh, the place he preferred to wander the souks seeking inspiration. On a visit to Tangier, he got here throughout “Mère et Fils,” a 2014 e-book of pictures by the now 61-year-old French artist Denis Dailleux, who lived in Egypt for a few years. The photographs, without delay erotic and tender, had been of shirtless male Egyptian bodybuilders photographed with their moms. Barthélemy, now 30, was so struck by them that he determined to go to Cairo himself, the place he fell in love with the chaos of town. He later moved there, right into a spacious however pale ’60s-era flat. Someday, he visited a tiny stall south of Bab Zuwayla in Suq al-Khayamiya (“Tentmakers’ Market”), the place an artisan named Tarek Abdelhay Hafez Abouelenin was hand-making a khayamiya — a vibrant quiltlike work that includes ornate appliqué patterns sewn onto a plain cotton canvas backing, a textile that has been used to cowl the insides of tents at weddings, celebrations and funerals for over a millennium. Not surprisingly, the meticulous, time-consuming work is a dying artwork (most modern khayamiya are digitally printed), which made Abouelenin’s work all of the extra extraordinary. The 2 males agreed to collaborate on a special form of khayamiya, one that might stray from conventional arabesque and calligraphic motifs — and would defy the Islamic taboo towards each practical illustration and homoeroticism.

“I drew a fantasy — a naïve and sensual scene of an imaginary health club on the Nile,” Barthélemy says. Then, as soon as he and Abouelenin had decided a palette (cornflower blue, seaweed inexperienced), Abouelenin started stitching. The outcome, a lush 70-inch-by-70-inch tapestry depicting muscular Egyptian males lifting barbells and kettlebells amid stylized palm timber and native birds, was bought by Barthélemy’s pal, the hotelier and inventive advisor Philomena Schurer Merckoll, who hung it in her cult favourite resort, Riad Mena & Past, again in Marrakesh. In mid-October, Barthélemy will debut a set of six extra tapestries that elaborate on the identical theme at Tawlet, a cultural culinary hub in Beirut, Lebanon. “One of many items is a pharaonic tackle the Parisian cabaret Loopy Horse,” he says.

As a lot as Barthélemy’s work is a celebration — of delight and of craft — he doesn’t shrink back from sure tensions. “I’m very conscious of the truth that in Islamic international locations, ladies are coated however males are allowed to be fairly exhibitionist,” he says. “This has grow to be much more exaggerated on social media and is one thing I need to discover.” When requested about potential accusations of cultural appropriation, he responds, “To me, it’s appropriation if a luxurious home takes a craft as it’s, for purely business functions.” He’s been impressed by the socially minded mid-20th-century Egyptian architect Ramses Wissa Wassef to start out a workshop in Giza the place laypeople can experiment with khayamiya, including, “I’ve realized this initiative actually strikes me past the purely inventive aspect of constructing issues; there’s a neighborhood that I need to nurture.” — GISELA WILLIAMS

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