September 22, 2010

Book Review by Smadar Lavie

Swift modernization and the forces of globalization are hijacking nomadic lifestyles throughout the Arab world. Joy Totah Hilden's Bedouin Weaving of Saudi Arabia and Its Neighbours is a book that celebrates nomadic women's textile worlds. It is also a requiem to generations-deep traditions of arts and crafts, weaving ornaments to beautify the everyday and decorate rituals of family, kin, and tribe. Hilden presents her compassionate text and spectacular photographs with the great spirit of cross-cultural humanism. Her life-long field and archival research are diligent and rigorous. This invaluable book provides a rich and detailed portrait of Bedouin weaving as it rapidly disappears. Old weavers die; the axis of young women’s life is modernity. The earthy natural fibers are being replaced with imported synthetic yarn. Hilden presents the liberating power of weaving that allows women to master a world of their own through the production of aesthetic objects. Aside from describing the weavers’ lives with dignity, spirit, and nuance, the book provides excellent hands-on instructions for cooking natural dyes and forming traditional patterns.

Professor Smadar Lavie, Ph.D.
Author of The Poetics of Military Occupation