Updates from Tanween Programme 2014 - 2015

Latifa Saeed - Project Update

What was it about the Tashkeel Design Programme that interested you?

I took part in Tashkeel's design programme in 2013-2014 for Design Days Dubai 2014. To be invited for the second year in a row was an honour. Tashkeel's program allows freedom to explore concepts, collaborate with artisans, and to design from scratch – without limitations.

What materials and concepts have you explored and discovered whilst on the programme?

Design, memory and nostalgia. Through my research I attempt to explore "nostalgia-evoking artifacts". 'Her verses' is an artwork I created based on my mother's anecdotes about her life. In 2013 I designed and built a seating collection 'Braided' using cushion tubes woven in braids – a very popular traditional hairstyle for children in the Emirates. How can design trigger nostalgia? Can design pass down memories through product experience? How can design make tradition relevant?

What materials are you working with for your final product and why?

Khoos, palm tree leaves (palm fronds) is a raw material widely available in the Emirates, it makes up 98% of the fruit trees in the region. Palm trees took a dominant role in the history of the Emirates, they provided shelter for the people. Palm leaves and fronds were used to make fans, food trays, food covers, baskets, mats, and'arish houses and boats. Fronds were even bound together and lined with pitch to make water tanks. The fibre of the trunk was turned into rope, fish traps, brushes, sacks, stuffing for mattresses, and the wood was used to make furniture, boxes, roof beams and many other items.

An inconspicuous use for palm leaves was children's toys, I remember when older women used to show us how to play with it when we were young, showing us techniques on how to build a fan, and make it fly, to weave a thick piece of fresh palm leaf strip, and palm dolls dressed in shayla (headscarfs) and thoab (traditional dress); it brings back memories, emotions and laughter.

Who are you collaborating with on your project and what is the nature of the collaboration?

I am collaborating with a palm weaving artisan and a mechanical engineer.

How have the labs and mentoring sessions influenced your process?

The mentoring sessions have been very useful in sharing contact information and names of companies and industrial areas in the Emirates. Also, staying updated with the progress of other designers and learning from them and having their input on our work. The labs with Amanda Game and Glithero have been instrumental in guiding us in our design process, making us aware of our potential and allowing us to stay pure to the raw materials we are using.

What have been your challenges so far?

Sourcing materials, finding artisans who are willing to have their work manipulated, explaining my idea and why I am trying to build kinetic design to the artisans.

What response do you hope to receive from your final work?

I have no expectations towards the response that I will receive, I am simply curious to experience the public's reaction; children specifically.