Midweek Modness: Mid Century Egyptian Tapestry

Egyptian Tapestry

Last week I also paid a visit to the junk and thrift shops of St. Clair Ave. West. My first stop was the Buy And Sell just east of Oakwood. This is the place where I found my Navajo Tree of Life rug. And my friend Holly reported that she got a great quilt there last week, so I though that maybe it was time for another trip.

While poking through the massive piles of stuff, I spotted this weaving. I’ve seen this sort of pictorial tapestry before at antique shows, and even though it was $20, I could not resist its charms.

One of my favourite parts of finding old treasures is researching them — where they came from, who made them and when. This rug was a real delight because I knew nothing outside of the fact that I’d seen this style before. It took about an hour to narrow its origins to Egypt. And once I was there I discovered the wonderful story of Ramses Wissa Wassef — an architect who started an arts centre for children near Giza in 1951. His mission was to teach children how to create art while encouraging craft traditions such as weaving and pottery. Wissa Wassef’s goal was to show that art is innate in everyone and can flourish — even with the threat of industrialization. Kids were free to create without critique of their work and eventually, a distinctive style emerged.

These tapestries were popular among tourists visiting Giza and the Great Pyramids as well. The abstracted scenes and bright colours were the perfect complement for any mod decor (and they rolled up neatly into luggage). Eventually, as the kids grew up, they started similar arts centres. The Wissa Wassef Arts Centre is still standing, although all the artists are adults now. These new works are breathtakingly beautiful, but lack the naive and fantastical qualities of the children’s tapestries.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if this tapestry came from The Wissa Wassef Arts Centre as it is not signed or tagged. Because it was so popular amongst the tourist trade, locals also knocked off the style. But I still love this charming scene of a village by a canal, with it’s medieval architecture and fantastical fishes.