January 15, 2012

Book Review by Kay Hardy Campbell

Review, Saudi Aramco World, Sept., Oct. 2010
By Kay Hardy Campbell

Joy Totah Hilden, 2010, Arabian Publishing, 978-0-95588-940-0.

In traditional Arabian Bedouin society, women wove and built their families’ goat-hair tents, using wool from their own herds. Hilden lived in Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 1994, learning everything she could about Bedouin weavers and their art; as a weaver and weaving instructor herself, she knew what she needed to learn and sought this knowledge in every region of Saudi Arabia. She stayed in touch with her favorite weavers, noting how their art changed with time and with their families’ integration into the modern economy. While the traditional craft is hardly practiced today, Hilden notes that many cultural institutes in the region are trying to preserve it. Her discussion of Bedouin life as seen through the weaver’s eyes reveals the gentle harmony they kept with the desert environment. The thorough information about the weavings photographed in the book will help collectors and archivists, and the book is also a precise and accurate guide for those who would like to make their own Bedouin weavings. It includes specific directions on weaving patterns and spinning and weaving techniques, and information on natural dyes.