The Saudi Arabian Bedouin, or the Bedu, are iconic nomads of the Middle East. Immortalized in films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Arabian Bedouin have captured the imagination of the Western world since their first contact with Europeans during Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in the 18th century. This romantic myth of the Bedu wanderer, who wears flowing robes while riding a camel in search of food and water in the desert, is far from accurate. Bedouin people are diverse, skilled craftspeople, dedicated to family, hospitality, and honor. This exhibition focuses on aspects of traditional Bedouin life that survive today: home and family life, clothing and jewelry, and the importance of one’s herds to survival and prosperity.
Visitors to the exhibition will learn how Bedouin arts and crafts frequently bridge the gap between aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, as well as recognize the unique tenacity of Bedouin traditions in an ever-changing political, social, and environmental landscape.
Traditional Arts of the Bedouin reveals the Bedouin to be artists with a legacy of incredible work, not widely known outside their own cultures. The featured jewelry shows each artist’s use of obscure techniques, such as crenellation, to produce intricate pieces. Bedouin weaving, still crafted on a stick loom, demonstrates ancient knowledge of natural dyes and fibers, and traditional patterns; while the women who create textiles use native stitches, not known outside the Bedouin world, to embroider meaning into the objects.
The exhibition, curated by Dr. Amber Clifford-Napoleone of the University Museum at the University of Central Missouri, includes approximately fifty-three artworks and artifacts, from elaborately embroidered textiles and embellished metalwork to ceremonial coffee accouterments and incense burners; as well as several photographs depicting Bedouin craftspersons at work.
A program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.