Recording Qut Art with Art Jameel

Asir, Saudi Arabia, 2017

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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.

View of Rijal Alma in the Asir province of Saudi Arabia

Examples of rock art can be found throughout the region

Traditional houses in Asir were builr with materials such as stone, clay and wood

Slate inserts to protect the earth infill

 

Doors at Rijal Alma

Traditional floor decorations

Ahmed Mater introduced the Factum Foundation team to local traditions and crafts

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 city of Abha c.1947

A photograph of a teacher with her students in Abha

Art school in Abha - training new artists in Qut painting

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.

 

Wall decorations in Al Makhad

The oldest Qut style wall decorations in Asir at the Al Makhad village

 

The original Qut paintings were made using only red and black

 

 

 

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.

Gabriel Scarpa recording the home of Sharifa Bint Ahmed, bearing traditionally coloured Qut wall paintings

 

Wall decorated 60 years ago in Rijal Alma

 

 

With the introduction of enamel paints, the colours became brighter: green, orange, yellow and blue became the dominant palette.

With the introduction of enamel paints, Qut walls paintings became brighter

Overpainted Qut decoration in the village of Gahmah

Bicoloured patterned interior wall decoration in the village of Zebnah, North-West of Abha

Hand-painted exterior house wall decorations at Rijal Alma (Asir)

Gabriel Scarpa recording the home decorated by Jahahah bint Beraydi in Rijal Alma

Details from the wall decorated by Jahahah bint Beraydi

Black squares painted by Jahahah bint Beraydi in Rijal Alma

 

 

 

 

 

Factum Foundation will continue to collaborate with Art Jameel to preserve Qut heritage.

Al-Qatt al-Asiri Pattern Book

[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

Current state of the original wall painting © Factum Foundation

Digitally restored © Factum Foundation

Geometric pattern, recreated digitally © Factum Foundation

Teresa Casado working on the digital restoration of the patterns © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Detail of the current state of the wall painting © Factum Foundation

Detail of the restored colour, opacity 50% © Factum Foundation

Detail of the digitally restored pattern © Factum Foundation


 

 

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