Sadu as a way of life

“One meter of plain Sadu can take up to two days of work. One with many details in the piece, it could take up to a week.”

Al-Sadu, or simply Sadu, is a traditional form of weaving that relies on geometrical shapes and designs. It is the traditional artisanal craft of Bedouin women of the Arabian Peninsula. In Kuwait, Al-Saud House is a local cooperative dedicated to the preservation of this important textile art and heritage. — Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Al Sadu is a traditional form of weaving practiced by the Bedouin women of Kuwait. The traditional colors are black, white, brown, beige and red, with distinctive patterns in the form of narrow bands of geometric designs. Weavers often gather in small groups to spin and weave, exchanging family news and occasionally chanting and reciting poetry.
Sadu weavers are now mostly older women whose numbers are declining. Kuwait Times met a veteran weaver – 49-year-old Laila Yasser – to learn more about Sadu history.

Kuwait Times: How long have you been weaving and what brought you into this line of work? Who taught you to weave?
Laila Yasser: I started when I was 15-years-old. As Bedouins, Sadu and weaving are our life – we had to make the carpets, cushions and pillows all from Sadu. Girls learn by watching, and are gradually given tasks to do, such as sorting the wool, before learning the more intricate skills involved. When you are young, you start simple with small cushions maybe, then you weave larger pieces, because Sadu is not an easy task. Young girls do not have the physical strength as it requires strenuous effort. My mother and aunts taught me this art. The women and girls in the family had a mini-workshop in the house to start learning Sadu.

KT: Is weaving your full-time job?
Yasser: Yes, I work for Sadu House. It takes orders and I work from home. Two years ago, I started to make bags of Sadu for many customers.

KT: What are the technical challenges you face when making Sadu?
Yasser: It is hard at first when you try a new design. One mistake could make you start over from scratch. It is hard to unspin the yarn and re-sew it.

KT: How many hours do you work per day on a carpet?
Yasser: One meter of plain Sadu takes up to two days of work. But if there are many details in the piece, it could take up to a week.

KT: Are there any designs that you haven’t made yet, but would like to make?
Yasser: I would like to develop and work on a clothing collection made of Sadu. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would also like to involve Sadu more in modern furniture.

KT: Which Sadu piece took the longest amount of time to make?
Yasser: The longest time that took me to make one piece was two months and 10 days. The piece took a lot of hard work.

KT: Do you think Sadu is being relegated to history?
Yasser: No; many young girls come to Sadu House for weaving workshops, where they are interested in learning the history of this beautiful handcraft. It is a joy for them.

KT: What advice can you give to people who want to become weavers?
Yasser: Sadu weaving is an interesting thing to do, and I advise every girl to try it. It is good for the mind, and discharges negative energy from the body.

KT: How long does it usually take to become a master weaver like you?
Yasser: It depends from one person to another. My daughter knew how to weave Sadu even as 3-year-old girl, and wanted to be involved, as the colors attracted her.

By Faten Omar

This article was published on 01/06/2017