Nada Debs has joined forces with 81 designs, and the stunning results of their new collaborative collection will be unveiled during Abu Dhabi Art. The Lebanese designer based between Dubai and Beirut and Emirati social enterprise that empowers female refugees through design and art will be showcasing “On Belonging” at the annual art fair, taking place November 17 to 21 at Manarat Al Saadiyat.
The collection, a culmination of a six-month project, blends homelands, history, heart and soul into a collection that unites people across geographical boundaries, through craft and culture. It is inspired by Palestinian artist Nabil Anani’s “In Pursuit of Utopia,” a scenic depiction of his imagined homeland visualised as one perfect landscape, without division or disruptions.
Reimagined by Nada Debs and her brand ethos that follow the ‘handmade and heartmade’ tag line, “On Belonging” features seven Crafted Pebble chairs and Straw lamps, created by pushing the boundaries of craft, geography, art and community for a deeper sense of connection and compassion tied to fatherland and history. And as a nod to the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, the seven pieces represent the seven emirates, while the craft revives a sense of belonging tied to Lebanon’s culture and the art pays homage to Palestine.
“Our mission is to narrate the artistic tale of old traditions. Our collaborations allow us to empower the refugee artisans we employ by providing them with sustainable jobs,” Nadine Maalouf, who Co-Founded 81 Designs with her mother, Nesrine, says. “Our collaboration with Nada Debs reflects a strong sense of community and the fusion between craft and design.”
For the Co-Founders of 81 Designs, which was launched in 2017, the project is a reflection of their passion to bring together artists and artisans, creators and designers, to weave together design, craft, art and culture. The enterprise that helps female refugees showcase their talent and creativity in collaboration with artists from the MENA region revolutionises the use of traditional embroidery such as tatreez and cross-stitching.
While making the collection, the artisans faced challenges at 81 Designs’ workshop located in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. However, it was possible due to the resilience of the women behind the work and is a testament of their commitment to tradition and craft.
As a true craft-custodian and educator, Debs’ vision for new-materialism comes to life through the design process and creative collaboration, which weaves emotion into furniture and design by adding depth to traditional Palestinian cross-stitching.
“My work is about identity, restoring and elevating traditional craft and instilling a sense of belonging. By revisiting roots and working with refugee artisans, this project was an infusion of identities and a heartfelt dialogue conveyed via craft, relaying messages of hope and freedom, dignity and identity,” says Debs, who makes product and furniture design as well as commissioned and one-off pieces.
The designer who weaves innovation, scale, and discipline across craft, art, fashion, and interiors adds she wanted to reawaken the sense of belonging, which is universal and essential for all of us. “This collection taps into that sense of identity, purpose, longing and belonging.”
The “On Belonging” collection will be available for purchase at Abu Dhabi Art 2021 (November 17-21)