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Sumptuous Syrian Textiles 2010.

Memories by Dijanne Cevaal
A word picture…

The citadel marks the place where the journey into Old Damascus begins,
and once there you want to know so much more about this old country, this
marvellous place. In the souq you are dazzled by brightly coloured carpets,
the smell of spices and perfumes, gold, and threads, delicious ice cream.
Mobile juice stands with strawberry and pomegranate juice, lacy underwear
and demure trench coats- and this is just the beginning of your trip!

What can I say- each day in Syria seems to be like a trip to the souq. The
country is so richly layered, that each day brought a new revelation and a
new marvel. Roman ruins here aren't an isolated columns standing, or a hint
of a theatre- you get a sense of whole Roman cities with shops facing onto
columned avenues, of people going about their lives 2000 years ago. Then
there is the castles- Krak de Chevalier still standing  looking out into the
surrounding country side- you can hear the nervous shuffling of the horses in
the stables- what a hustle and bustle  the keeps of the castle must have
been- a world unto itself…and then Saladin’s castle, looking out over
rugged terrain the drawbridge a narrow entrance into the story of a Syrian

Then there is textiles.... it is still possible to find hand made felt rugs for your
desert tent, hand woven silk, goat’s hair weaving, but there are only a few
people who do this now- it was so wonderful to see their passion for their
craft- their desire to see the skills maintained and passed onto the younger
generation. For them the pace of  life, like everywhere is escalating,  and
precious skills are in danger of being lost. At one moment you stand before
Roman ruins looming 39 metres into the air and you ponder- how did they
do that? and at the other you see the steady movement of the shuttle
carrying the silk over the loom, the tending of silk worms to create the
precious fibre- we are in danger of losing all these things and the
knowledge how to do this. It was a rare experience to be able to experience
this and tell the makers that we cared about their work and to marvel at their

On a completely other note about spreading the 'textile" word- Southern
lands is an exhibition of textile art created by   Australians and a New
Zealander, which is wandering the world <ttp://southernlands.webs.com>.
Presently these art works are on display at Salles d'Aude in Southern

This is my curator’s statement:
Southern  Lands
For hundreds of years sailors dreamed of faraway lands in the great ocean
on the other side of the world, myths grew up about this strange place.
Cartologists drew strange maps of the undiscovered southern land which
was thought to balance the world. Dirk Hartog set out in his small ship and
found some of its shores, other ships foundered on its reefs and rocky
shores; Abel Tasman found a southern island and then some more islands
even further to the east and south and called these last discoveries after his
native homeland Zeeland. However it was Captain James Cook, adventurer
and navigator who put Terra Australis and New Zealand on the map. These
masters of the sea found what they considered primitive life in both lands
and announced terra Australis to be Terra Nullius- uninhabited- ignorant of a
rich cultural heritage spanning 10,000’s of years and ignoring the fact that
the people defended their land. In New Zealand, the land of the long white
cloud, they also encountered tenacious resistance which ended in Waitangi
Treaty and the proud cry of the Maori that they were never defeated.
The English deposited their convicts and soldiers on Australian shores-
setting up harsh forbidding prisons, then  sent its squatter settlers to race
across the land in search of grazing, and Europe sent its displaced people
from two world wars to discover new futures. Yet the land maintains its hold
on the people. The desert is harsh and forbidding and startlingly beautiful,
precarious rivers feed the towns and cities, fires create havoc and destroy
communities,flora and fauna, yet each time the land regenerates .The land
cries to be treated gently and with care- the land cries for the insights of the
aboriginal people who sang their way for thousands of miles to water and
places without maps. The land cries for us to stand back and look, and to
slowly absorb the earth, the trees, the hills, the mountains, the rivers  and to
treat it with respect, for when we don’t the  elements are fierce and
I have looked for work from Australian and New Zealand artist to bring the
spirit of our Southern Lands to you- to speak of its mysteries, its settlement,
its nature and the transgressions we as inhabitants make, and the steps we
might take to protect the future of our land our people and our children.
Creative Arts Safaris
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