Startup of the Week: Reintroducing national heritage through creative products

Startup of the Week: Reintroducing national  heritage through creative products
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Startup of the Week: Reintroducing national  heritage through creative products
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Updated 29 December 2020

Startup of the Week: Reintroducing national heritage through creative products

Startup of the Week: Reintroducing national  heritage through creative products
  • Zan Leather seeks to create a special space for traditional artwork not only in the Kingdom but throughout the Gulf and the wider world

Creativity plays a vital role in the growth of a business. For a startup to succeed in a competitive market, a novel idea is a must.
Zan Leather is one such Saudi startup that is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Kingdom’s national heritage by creating designs inspired by traditional Sadu embroidery.
The traditional form of weaving was recently added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage — the eighth Saudi item to be added to the list.
The ancient tribal craft portrays the Arabian nomadic people’s rich cultural heritage. It is known for its vibrant colors and patterns.
Zan Leather seeks to create a special space for traditional artwork not only in the Kingdom but throughout the Gulf and the wider world.
The company was established in 2018 by Narjes Al-Shareef and her husband Thaer Al-Zouabi.
Following the launch, Al-Shareef decided to quit her job as an English teacher and commit to the brand. Her husband followed suit, leaving his job in trade to also dedicate his time to the company.
Al-Shareef explained how elements of the Kingdom’s heritage had been abandoned and ignored for a long time.
“The brand aims to revive our national heritage. Zan Leather merges Sadu embroidery and leather, creating contemporary designs that are aligned with what is trending today,” Al-Shareef told Arab News.
Zan Leather offers handbags, wallets, glass cases, watch straps and more, made from Sadu weaving and natural leather imported from Italy, the US and Russia. The company has also created a Sadu scarf this winter that received much praise for its Bedouin patterns and high-quality craftsmanship.
Al-Shareef said that Sadu weaving has a special place in the heart of every Saudi citizen, as well as visitors to the Kingdom.
“Sadu products are loved by nationals and tourists alike,” she said.
Since the launch of the Vision 2030 program and the special attention given to the tourism sector, foreigners are keen on visiting Saudi Arabia to explore its unique and rich culture.
“We’ve seen a large number of tourists in the Kingdom, many of whom will want to take home a gift or product that reflects the place they visited. Our idea was very much aligned with Saudi Vision 2030. Tourists loved the heritage reflected in our items; they found something that represents the Kingdom in them.”
What distinguishes Zan Leather from competitors is the aesthetic richness of its products, which, according to the couple, is the result of much research.
“The multiculturalism, variety and natural beauty within the Kingdom served as inspiration for us,” Al-Shareef said.
Keep up with the Saudi brand on Instagram: @zan_leather.


Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
Updated 15 January 2021

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
  • Works from 100+ artists from the MENA region will be on show in Cairo from Feb. 12-14

ESRAA ZIDAN

‘Untitled’

This 2020 painting is typical of Zidan’s exuberant, colorful and loving portrayal of the female form (her Master’s degree was on “Human Anatomy for Artists”). The 30-year-old Egyptian artist began depicting plus-size women as a response to the “unrealistic beauty standards” of Instagram, she once told Cairo West magazine. “The most important point is that I portrayed them feeling happy and satisfied. I want every woman to feel accepted and confident about how she looks.” In another interview, with Executive Woman magazine, she said: “We aren’t supposed to look alike. Everyone is different, and every woman is enough the way she is.”

WAEL DARWISH

‘Untitled’

The Cairene multidisciplinary artist has described himself as “much concerned with the changing perceptions and the state of continual metamorphosis that Egypt, as an African, Arab, and Middle Eastern country that was colonized and liberated, has witnessed in the last three decades.” In his paintings, such as this one, he is “obsessed by human movement and the quest for freedom,” and uses bold colors and impressionist techniques to imply that movement.

HAKIM ALAKEL

‘Untitled’

The 55-year-old artist is one of the most significant figures in Yemen’s art scene and his paintings have sold around the world — particularly to fans of Art Nouveau work. His art is inspired by city life in Yemen before the civil war, depicting simple, colorful urban scenes often featuring female residents. “These cities, and their inhabitants, form a primary reference for my work… the clothing, the weather, the nature and the environment,” Alakel is quoted as saying on synkroniciti.com. “You’ll find that Yemeni women actually form the main inspiration for my work. They are unique in their style, their vision, their dress… and there is also a certain kind of silence in their faces. I see these women as symbols of the larger environment in which they live.”

WALID EL-MASRI

‘Peacock’ (series since 2018)

El-Masri is a Lebanese artist who was born in Syria and now lives and works in Paris. According to Ayyam Gallery, his practice “revolves around the repeated examination of a single material subject as he explores variations in depth and space through abstracted compositions. … Like Morandi's vases or Cezanne's apples, El-Masri's depictions are less about the objects themselves and more about the possibility of transformation that is derived from paying close attention to the object over time.” El-Masri explained this practice to the Attasi Foundation. “Every time you repeat a shape, you perceive it in a different way,” he said.

“The Peacock” is a series he has been working on for the past few years, reportedly intended as an homage to his father, who was kidnapped in Syria, after which El-Masri stopped painting for some time. When he started again in 2018, the peacock was the first thing he painted, and he has since completed several works on the same theme.

SALAH EL-MUR

‘Untitled’

Sudanese multidisciplinary artist Salah El-Mur is based in Cairo, but spent many years traveling throughout East Africa and the Middle East. This, according to a statement from the organizers of the Egypt International Art Fair, “has given him a rich and diverse background, while still maintaining a distinctive and peculiar Sudanese identity, to the extent of becoming a (flag bearer for) Sudanese art.” His vivid and colorful paintings of street life “do not (portray) significant events or actions, but characters — each with a concealed story of their own.”

MOHANNAD ORABI

‘Waiting’

This painting comes from the UAE-based Syrian artist’s “Family Portrait” series. His expressionist-style works, according to the fair’s organizers, is based on “the inherent psychology of portraiture in compositions that depict a revolving cast of characters” and was “initially inspired by the confessional elements and sense of freedom in children’s drawings.” But the inspiration for this series came from childhood visits with his family to photographers’ studios. “These psychological portraits capture the fatigue and uncertainty experienced by millions,” Maymanah Farhat, director of art at Ayyam Gallery, told Time Out last year. “They remind viewers that the future of countries such as Syria now rests in the hands of displaced youth; children shaped by the trauma of war.”

AHMED ABDELWAHAB

‘Egyptian Girl’

Abdelwahab is one of Egypt’s most-respected contemporary sculptors. His work is something of an homage to Ancient Egyptian civilization and visual references, and he often uses traditional techniques and materials to create his sculptures. But while he celebrates his country’s heritage, his style is modern — even incorporating Western influences no doubt inspired by his time studying in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, he earned a three-year scholarship in the Rome atelier of the acclaimed Italian sculptor Emilio Greco in the late Sixties.