Abu Dhabi pavilion one of three medal winners at London Design Biennale

The Abu Dhabi pavilion has been named as one of three jury-selected winners of awards at the 2023 London Design Biennale, presented to the pavilions that have contributed the most exceptional installations to the Biennale.

Abu Dhabi’s ‘Formation of Soof’ was awarded the London Design Biennale Theme Medal for the most inspiring interpretation of the Biennale’s theme, which this time around is The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations..

The Abu Dhabi pavilion’s immersive audio-visual installation, presented by the House of Artisans, highlights the core materials and the essential tools of Al Sadu craft weaving: wool from sheep, camels and goats (soof), the spindle (ghazal), and the spinner (maghzal). Highlighting the relationship between culture, heritage and creativity, the installation also shows how craft skills are being transmitted from one generation to the next.

Spinning is a slow, time consuming process, but one that is both intimate and hypnotic; the pavilion makes the most of this, celebrating the flow that transforms a soft, raw material into the Sadu textiles.

Al Sadu means weaving done on a horizontal loom (rather than the vertical wheel-based weaving of European and other traditions). The characteristic patterns feature bright colours and geometric designs; it’s a craft that is primarily associated with Bedouin women, once crucial to desert life – for everything from the fabric for traditional tents to decorative items for clothing and harnesses – but nowadays more relevant to the maintenance of cultural heritage. Last year UNESCO added Al Sadu to its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The award was accepted in London by House of Artisans curator Azza Alsharif and Salama Al Shamsi, director of cultural sites at DCT Abu Dhabi (fifth and sixth from left in the photo of award winners below).

The two other awards went to Poland for the installation Poetics of Necessity, which won for the most outstanding overall contribution; and Taiwan’s Visible Show, for the most exception design. An additional medal will be awarded on 21 June, voted for by the public.

The Formation of Soof pavilion has been curated by the Department of Music and Sound Cultures at NYU Abu Dhabi and Qasr Al Hosn, home of the House of Artisans.

The London Design Biennale opened at the start of the month and runs to 25 June in Somerset House; the biggest iteration of the biennale to date, it’s well worth the visit if you’re in London – more than 40 designers and groups from around the world are taking part, and the overall effect is fascinating.

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