Kossmann Dejong, an exhibition for The House of Artisans in Abu Dhabi

Tellart, Kossmann.dejong,

Mohamed Somji/ Seeing Things,

Abu Dhabi, EAU,

Museums, Exhibitions,

Designers from the Dutch Kossmann Dejong studio, together with Tellart, have created an exhibition on ancient crafts and artisanry at the House of Artisans, in Abu Dhabi. The exhibition concept has been fittingly revisited in an evocative architecture designed by architect Alex Franklin featuring a façade of woven wicker panels.

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Kossmann Dejong, an exhibition for The House of Artisans in Abu Dhabi
The House of Artisans is located in the cultural heart of Abu Dhabi, next to the Qasr al Hosn, the oldest and most famous building in Abu Dhabi and the seat of the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi until 1966 which, after many years of renovation, reopened as a museum in 2018. In this unique setting, the craftsmanship represented by the House of Artisans celebrates the creative and artistic relationship between the people of the United Arab Emirates and the natural resources available locally. Within the different landscapes, from the desert to the oases, from the coast to the sea, local artisans have developed countless skills, together with a remarkable artistic expression and a creative aesthetic. Passed down from generation to generation, these practical skills also preserve the important social values associated with the UAE’s identity.
From these choices, the museum was dedicated to the extensive intangible heritage of the United Emirates emphasising, in particular, the nation’s ability to adapt to nature. Using local natural materials to build houses, make fishing baskets and weave clothes, today these crafts continue to be intimately linked to the natural environment. The exhibition, created by the Kossmann Dejong studio with Tellart, thus highlights the incredible resilience and resourcefulness of local artisans, together with their balanced relationship with nature which today, more than ever, has once again assumed a fundamental role.
In direct reference to the techniques used, the exhibition, inserted in an open space and bordered by two long curved walls, starts from the idea of the "woven village". On one wall, visitors can see enlarged details of hands moving in slow motion, engaged in various inimitable creative gestures, as a tribute to the manual skills that are the foundation of all trades and artisanal creations. The other wall is a “universe of crafts” completely covered with objects and materials that celebrate all the Arab Emirates’ trades. In the centre, instead, we find five pavilions woven in palm leaves according to a traditional construction technique called Arish. But the Kossmann Dejong exhibition is not limited to mediated experiences. In fact, in the central pavilion visitors are welcomed by three Emirati artisans demonstrating their craftsmanship, offering a close look at how they painstakingly bring their works to life. Around this workshop, three additional pavilions invite visitors to learn about traditional Emirati weaving techniques: Sadu, Khoos and Talli.
The exhibition, however, goes beyond offering a retrospective or a momentary visit, also giving visitors a glimpse into the future. Because in this young nation, old trades are being constantly revived by a new generation of artists and designers, often educated abroad. The same generation that is in search of a new individual visual language capable of incorporating their formal and visual heritage. And it is precisely for this reason that visitors of The House of Artisans are able not only to discover traditional craftsmanship, but also to meet new artists and designers with their works. Finally, they also have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional coffee ritual and experience the hospitality of the Emirates firsthand, in a human-scale dimension of this proud nation.
Even directing our gaze towards the nearby skyscrapers, we must certainly not forget those roots that are an essential part of the history of this nation, which can be explored at The House of Artisans museum.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition design: Kossmann Dejong with Tellart
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Year: 2021
Images: Mohamed Somji/ Seeing Things