Guided by Ali Mughawi, Factum Foundation´s Adam Lowe, Gabriel Scarpa and James Macmillan-Scott, along with Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, traveled to the Asir region in South Saudi Arabia to record traditional Qut paintings, a decorative style unique to the area (click here to view a map).
The team visited the villages of Rijal Alma, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Makhad, Zebnah and Alsudah. Historically, the village of Rijal Alma linked trade routes and visitors traveling from Yemen and the Levant to Mecca The village is composed of 60 palaces built from stone, clay and wood - a construction style hinting to a previous time of wealth derived from the taxes imposed on caravans passing through the region.
Architecture in the Asir region is rich, but the local tradition in stonework and Qut decorations is slowly disappearing before the world learns much about them. Asiris share a clear sense of cultural tradition and community, but seem less concerned with the preservation of their material culture. Qut decorations bear witness to this specificity as they have remained traditional, with no significant change in their design over time, but are commonly repainted to satisfy different demands.
The original Qut style was characterized by a narrow range of earth pigments that were probably bound with milk. The oldest remaining examples are from the Al Makhad village and typically follow black and grey geometric patterns with specific dotting in burnt siena and freehand drawn borders.
Many homes have been redecorated, each time adding a new layer of painting to the walls. At Rijal Alma, Sharifa Bint Ahmed, a highly respected Qut painter, redecorated a number of homes between the 1950s and the 1980s. Her work shows a complexity of design, an original treatment of corners and a highly complex ‘hanging textile’ design.
With the introduction of enamel paints, the colours became brighter: green, orange, yellow and blue became the dominant palette.
Factum Foundation will continue to collaborate with Art Jameel to preserve Qut heritage.
[L] The book is printed in both English and Arabic © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation
Al-Qatt al-Asiri Pattern Book is a folio format publication produced in collaboration with Art Jameel, that has been designed as a teaching aid for the the women of Asir. The aim is to revive the art form that has been designated as 'intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO: these colourful geometric patterns have decorated the interior of the domestic buildings of the region for many years but are disappearing.
The book, designed by Factum, is printed and bound by Book Works in London.
© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation
Teresa Casado working on the digital restoration of the patterns © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation