Buying tickets

Photo: Shai Ben Efraim

Desirable Object

Bedouin Women Create Contemporary Folk Art

July 25, 2016 – October 24, 2016


The exhibition presents for the first time a unique phenomenon of less than two decades that reveals the artistic work of women who experienced the transition from a nomadic life to life in permanent dwellings. Tracing the fate of the traditional crafts reveals a new phenomenon: a combination between the traditional techniques of embroidery and weaving and household objects. Objects that have fallen into disuse or have been discarded are reused as a basis for new creations completely covered in materials, colored synthetic wool threads, and market-bought textiles. The works are used to decorate homes, and are also significantly present at henna and wedding ceremonies that preserve tribal social cohesion. The exhibition focuses on creations that look like “newly-dressed tradition”, or as the women define themselves: “Renewing Bedouin traditions”.

Photo: Shay Ben Efraim

In traditional nomadic Bedouin society there was high awareness of reuse, giving new life to available raw materials that can be used over and over again, changing their purpose. Although material culture changed with the transition to living in permanent settlements, this awareness remained. Global consumer culture and the abundance of available objects created an opportunity for contemporary creativity in which waste is transformed into personal artworks, made primarily by women of the “intermediate generation” – the daughters of the “desert generation”. They experienced desert life in their childhood, and bring traditional knowledge to new objects, together with influences from neighboring cultures following the opening of the Negev borders in 1976 and exposure to modernization. The contemporary, feminine folk art (craft) reflects a changing culture in an era of change in Bedouin society in the Negev. The artworks express an aspect of the creative women’s world and their new, unique, personal voice.

Photo: Shay Ben Efraim

Most of the items are based on reusing household objects and discarded objects, such as fan covers, plastic containers, clothes hangers, irrigation pipes, and tin cans. Most of them serve as a basis which is then completely covered with threads, weaving, embroidery, and sewing decorations, and more recently secular and religious texts are also incorporated into them. Use of elements from the traditions of the past is clearly evident in the pieces, and we can see the threads of the past interwoven into the new objects that reflect Bedouin life in the present.

Ida Kalivat, Tennis Racket with Embroidery, 2016, Photo: Shay Ben Efraim

All the artworks were made towards the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries.
The exhibition was first shown in early 2015 at the Trumpeldor Gallery in Beer Sheva under the auspices of the Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. Haim Maor.


Um Saeed Alkamalat, Rahat | Um Rihan Alkamalat, Rahat | Huda Abu Keren, Laqiya |
Huda Abu Amra, Tel Sheva | Wadcha Abu Amr, Segev Shalom | Wadcha El At’amin, H’sm Zana | Zohra Abu Mamar, Segev Shalom | Zainab Abu Amra, Tel Sheva | Khadra Abu Bader, Khirbet A’ Ras | Nawal Al Qur’an, Al Fura | Yasmin Al Qur’an, Al Fura | Kamela Umm Yahya Abu Tzalok, Aro’er | Kamela Abu Bader, Hura | Sabrin Abu Amra, Tel Sheva | Sabha to Atawana, Hura | Suheir Abu Ammar, Abu Bader, Hura | Srih Umm Jamil Abu Tzalok, Aro’er | Ida Kalivat, Rahat |Faiza Abu Amra, Segev Shalom | Faiza Al Uka, Aro’er | Fatma Al Uka, Aro’er | Farhaneh Umm Nasser, Zenon tribe, Waddie Ariha | Sarah Slalmhe, Rahat