Feature: Craftsmen try to salvage old Damascene crafts from extinction

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-24 00:26:37|Editor: xuxin
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A Syrian craftsman makes a stone mosaic piece in a workshop established in an ancient house called the Orient House in the al-Midan neighborhood in the capital Damascus on July 11, 2019. The Orient House provided shelters for several craftsmen who came together in 2018 bound with the love of their fathers' professions to revive such crafts and teach it to the new generation. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)

by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, July 23 (Xinhua) -- In a country that has been in a long-winded war, clutching at heritage seems a healthy way to rebuild the country from its roots.

Maybe the new generation in Syria is not very familiar with the Damascene Painting, which is basically carving and coloring a thin board of wood and turning it into a beautiful painting, or the Arabic Thread craft, which is creating an ergonomic shape using a plate of wood that could later be colored and affixed on walls or ceilings.

Making a stone mosaic is also an ancient traditional craft in Syria where craftsmen can make beautiful pieces shown in guest rooms in the houses in Damascus.

Such crafts have found salvation in an ancient Arabic house in the old al-Midan neighborhood in the heart of Damascus.

The house was called the Orient House for preserving the heritage and cultural crafts, as it provided shelters for several craftsmen who came together in 2018 bound with the love of their fathers' professions to revive such crafts and teach it to the new generation.

The entire project is supervised by the al-Wafaa Association for Relief and Development, which owns the old house in the al-Midan area.

The goal of the association and workers is to maintain the heritage work and allow the workers to teach the new generation cultural arts.

Maher Bozo, a craftsman doing handicraft Damascene Painting, said that he and other craftsmen are trying to salvage the beloved old crafts as they constitute the roots of the Syrian society and it's a good way to start building the country by restoring its heritage.

"For the sake of preserving the professions and handicrafts from extinction, we are trying through this association to rebuild a new generation and to qualify it to carry on and preserve the heritage and handicrafts that we have inherited from our ancestors," he told Xinhua.

For his side, Maher Shami, a craftsman doing handicraft Arabic Drawing, said the association helped them on the financial level and provided the needed machines.

"It helped us a lot on the financial level and also in terms of providing machines and buying them so that I could re-run this profession again and continue with our work," Shami said.

Sitting in another corner of the house was Hamed Hajjar, who does Stone Mosaic, an art of making a mosaic from stones and arranging them beautifully on wood.

He told Xinhua that he was among those who did not leave the country to teach the young generation what he knows to make the art that he loves alive.

"In this period, many of the craftsmen have left the country and those who can do these jobs have become rare, so we are trying to teach new cadres and preserve these crafts," Hajjar told Xinhua.

Remal Saleh, head of the association, told Xinhua that the cultural crafts are at the risk of extinction in Syria due to the war and the migration of the craftsmen.

"These crafts could come to an end for many reasons; the most important of which was the war because the war and terrorism have destroyed many workshops in Syria," she said.

Saleh added that the "another reason is the migration of large numbers of young people from the country, which has also caused losing these crafts in Syria."

Still, the craftsmen said that they made few profits as the products are expensive but take a long time to finish. A stone mosaic painting could take three months of work.

Additionally, the people now are busy making ends meet and buying handmade pieces is in many cases luxury they cannot afford.

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