Artist Hala Kaiksow weaves together Bahrain’s past and present

An outfit designed by Hala Kaiksow.
Updated 28 August 2018

Artist Hala Kaiksow weaves together Bahrain’s past and present

  • Making clothes that women can wear with ease is a key aim of the visionary designer

LONDON: Currently on show at London’s Victoria & Albert museum as part of its Jameel Prize 5 exhibition, which runs until Nov. 25, is the striking work of Bahraini artist Hala Kaiksow. Arab News caught up with the designer to learn more about how she incorporates traditional Bahraini craftsmanship into her luxurious contemporary garments.

Making clothes that women can wear with ease is a key aim of the visionary designer.

 “I love fluid, soft garments that complement the body while still being functional. I particularly like jumpsuits or pants that enable a woman to move freely. I use Bahraini national garments but re-contextualize them to suit the needs and lifestyles of women today,” Kaiksow told Arab News.

There is a strong focus on using natural fabrics and processes and then adding a contrasting manmade element in her work.

“We mostly use natural fibers, which we also dye naturally with different plants and trees to achieve the desired colors. I also like to play with manmade materials to juxtapose the natural with the manmade. For (the most recent) collection I used latex, but in a special way as I had the latex embroidered with mother of pearl,” she said.

For Kaiksow, who did her BA in Fine Arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, Boston, and her MA in Collection Design at Polimoda, the renowned Italian fashion institute, the design process has an almost meditative quality.

“For me weaving is almost therapeutic. When I am weaving I enter a meditative state. It’s hours and hours of work just setting up the loom and going back and forth. I try to give the garments soul — something that I think is sadly missing from clothing today.

“We have a throwaway culture, but clothing should not be disposable. It should be like an investment — garments you keep for the rest of your life.”


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Crique du Soleil in Riyadh. (Arab News)
Updated 24 September 2018

Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Crique du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.

Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.

As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.

The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.