Lebanese designers from the much-loved embroidery collective Bokja in Beirut have offered to suture and repair home furnishings damaged in the Beirut explosion on August 4. This is the same collective that burned tires in their own special way a few years ago.
The explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at a port warehouse caused widespread destruction and injured more than 5,000 people in Beirut last month.
Founders Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri have transformed their Beirut studio into a community center to help “rebuild a sense of comfort,” the ladies said.
The artisans who have joined in are now working under Bokja Mends to use a signature red stitch to sew the pieces back together.
Red in the region is also a kabbalistic sign worn to keep the evil eye away. Go visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem and you will be offered a red string for protection against jinn and bad luck.
Rising from the dust
Instead of complaining from the rubble Baroudi and Hibri give us all hope that together we can rebuild, even when there are forces out there that want to destroy.
“From the beginning we were so enthralled by the handmade works of embroiderers alongside the Silk Road, their steadfast pace when manipulating a textile, their use of color and pattern, and their intense personal association to the object created,” the duo told Green Prophet.
“Our intention is to celebrate a local cultural identity through reviving and contemporizing a disappearing artisanry. We seek to trigger the evolution of local crafts in the region, forming a newfound language of expression consequently informing a Lebanese aesthetic and identity,” they added.
In good times, Bokja has been working tirelessly by reviving regional textile practices, redefining them in a contemporary voice as it should be.
Bokja’s existing body of work combines artisans, carpenters and designers and like Ondi from Om Khadi – it takes a village. Behind every Bokja design is a team of 35 people from 10 countries such as Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, Egypt and Lebanon.
Transforming what’s lost to be remembered
Their textile practice is a representation of a diverse cluster of textile traditions. As we learned from Bedouin women in Lakia, Israel, who practice desert embroidery, and from my Scottish ancestors who put pride in their tartan, every textile tells a rich story of humanity and tradition.
And in a culture of fast fashion from H&M and IKEA our humanity is getting lost in a low cost capitalist culture which our culture pays for in a heavy price.
Sofas, armchairs and bed headboards are some of the items that have been brought in for repair in Beirut. Bokja is doing more that repair a home, they are repairing a country still reeling and bleeding with open wounds.