Participating in Downtown Design for the first time, the Sharjah-based initiative works towards preserving the UAE’s cultural heritage for the current and future generations.

An affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Irthi aims to empower craftswomen – economically and socially – through the revival, modernization and preservation of crafts across the MENASEA and central Asian regions.

By engaging with artisans and practitioners to incorporate new technologies and practices that create contemporary work, the council strives to bring traditional crafts and the communities behind them into the 21st century. In doing so, it opens up new markets for regional crafts and provides a fresh narrative for women artisans. 

In accordance with the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Founder and Patron of Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, the council’s initiatives enable Emirati women who practice traditional crafts to receive training and generate a sustainable source of income. Additionally, the council showcases the craft skills of these women through international exhibitions and fairs, as well as working with renowned institutions and brands to incorporate traditional handiwork into their designs. 

Through its key initiatives, the council integrates craft communities into present times, offering incentive and skills for these communities to preserve, develop and celebrate their skills. 

The Bidwa Social Development Program employs and provides artisans with vocational training and employment opportunities through commercial collaboration and regional artisan exchange programs. Established to foster the development of artisans within the MENASEA region, the Artisan Skills Exchange Programme provides a platform for social development and knowledge sharing. 

The Hirfati Youth Programme, Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme and the Crafts Dialogue intuitive are designed to integrate both Emirati and international crafts into contemporary design, whilst offering business development and mentoring opportunities.

For their showcase at Downtown Editions, the council will present their latest project that brings together the skills of the UAE’s craftswomen and the design codes of regional contemporary designers to create products that are rooted in regional traditions, yet are globally resonant.