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Wispy wool fibers—agitated with soap and water—will tangle and blend to form a non-woven textile: felt. The ancient process requires careful observation and keen sensory awareness. With deliberate movement and attention to the strands of wool, the material transforms before one’s eyes. It is a natural alchemy; out of many, one.
This year’s field study included a 5-day workshop in Oldeberkoop, the Netherlands. Students and faculty each designed and felted a modern prayer rug.
Praying is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and as such, is an obligatory duty of every Muslim. Prayer rugs are used by Muslims globally, and have a rich history that spans the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Traditional prayer rugs are woven, featuring distinct patterns and colors that often reveal a rug’s place of origin. A prayer rug’s purpose is to delineate a clean space for performing prayers. During prayer, the worshiper stands, kneels, bows, sits, and takes a position of prostration, where the palms rest flat against the rug, and the forehead touches also. Muslims pray towards the direction, qibla, of the Kaaba in Mecca. One common characteristic of traditional prayer rugs is a distinctive design feature used to orient the rug towards the qibla for prayer. These elements often mimic the mihrab niches found in mosques that indicate the congregation towards the qibla. As a result, prayer rugs are practical and functional at the same time they are sacred and revered.
Our modern felted prayer rugs explore the following themes: modernity (impact of advanced materials and technologies on the act of fabrication), tactility, surface, depth, function, portability, comfort, durability, and cultural resonance.
Workshop participants: Rabab Abdulla, Majdulin Nasr Allah, Norah Alshammari, Hazem Asif, Richard Blackwell, Marco Bruno, Aisha Jemila Daniels, Diane Derr, Nourbano Al Hejazi, Mohammad Jawad Jaffari, Se Hee Jang, Rabeya Khatoon, Rab McClure, Thomas Modeen, Mariam Rafehi, Alisha Saiyed, Yasmeen Suleiman, Sidra Zubairi
Hawar Textile Institute, www.hawar.nl
Saar Snoek, www.saarsnoek.nl
Noha Fouad, photographer, videographer