Nisreen Darzi (Abu Dhabi)
Sadu is not just a type of traditional weaving, but rather an essential part of the life of the people of the desert, and a craft that has been involved since ancient times in the details of their living, as it has always been used to prepare the tents they inhabited, and to sew blankets, pillows, and floor mats, and to adorn the camel saddles, as their means of transportation that extended for days and nights. Al Sadu, with its raw materials of sheep wool, goat hair and camel hair, occupies a special place in the Emirati society, which calls for its preservation for generations as an ancient heritage, reflecting a tangible example of the ingenuity of the ancients in adapting to their natural environment.
Speaking about the importance of Sadu as one of the most prominent inherited crafts, the UAE was able in 2011 to include it in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding. This step came as part of the government’s continuous endeavor to highlight the handicrafts created by Bedouin women and associated with them, and the economic contributions they provided to the family in a time of harsh living and the search for sources of livelihood.
Behind their traditional huge machines, which still use the techniques of sadu weaving in the same way until today, the women lay the ground in a scene that brings them together on spinning and weaving, where they practice their craft with the follow-up of the authorities concerned with preserving heritage. Their presence is often noticeable at various festivals, in open workshops to reveal their original works. It was customary for wool to be spun and woven in small groups, where the weavers exchange conversations, recite poetry, and what is known as the art of Taghrooda.
keep up with the times
About the preservation and development of the Sadu industry, I spoke to Al Ittihad, Rural Al Khaja, director of the Al Ghadeer Crafts Project, one of the projects of the Emirates Red Crescent Authority, pointing to efforts to attract young people and encourage them to learn about and preserve the heritage of our ancestors in a way that keeps pace with the times. She said: We are working to present Al-Sadu in a different style, and we are keen to include it in bags, chairs, fashion, accessories and stationery, pointing out that using the same weaving method it is possible to master weaving different designs.
Al-Khaja added: We cooperate in “Al Ghadeer” with more than 200 female artisans, and offer Al-Sadu in a striking style that includes cotton threads and bright colors, so that we maintain the traditional concept and adhere to its tools, with additions that help spread it on the widest scale.
She mentioned that the Sadu inscriptions were based in the past on certain rituals inspired by the desert, and the number of threads varied according to the width of the piece and the design. While preserving the traditional heritage, she pointed out that it is nice to work on creating new inscriptions, and this is what the artisans in “Al Ghadeer” worked on by designing a huge Sadu piece that included a group of forms that combined ancient and modern.
Mubaraka Mansour Mohamed from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation for Humanitarian Works explained the main points of her highly skilled work. She said: The first information of Sadu arts is related to the choice of colors, which are based in the present on white, green, red and black, after the flag of the Emirates. She pointed out that any piece of fabric woven in the Sadu style needs at least a continuous week of work.
Sadu industry requires several steps to prepare its raw materials until they are suitable for weaving. It begins with shearing sheep’s wool and goat’s hair and collecting camel hair, then it is classified according to color and length, after which the wool is cleaned by striking it to remove suspended impurities, such as plants and thorns. The processing process is completed by repeatedly cleaning the wool with water with mud or soap.
The next step is to spin the hair or wool with a spindle. Wool is spun on a loom, a knitting machine made of palm or jujube wood. When ready, it is dyed in bright colors extracted from plants and spices available in the local environment, such as henna, turmeric, saffron, aloe vera and indigo. The traditional Sadu is distinguished by its different colors, which range from black, white, brown and beige.
Inscriptions and decorations
Sadu inscriptions and decorations have been influenced throughout the ages by the materials used in the desert, and were characterized by geometric shapes showing flat grasslands, sand dunes, palm trees, flowers and falcons.
Sadu craft was included in UNESCO in 2011 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
Al-Sadu was used to make and decorate the interior of the “houses of poetry.” They are traditional Bedouin tents woven from goat hair and distinguished by their black color.
apparent and hidden
After the mowing and cleaning processes, the woolen thread is spun and spun on a hand spindle, then dyed and woven by a ground loom to produce a simple, warp and invisible weft.
Ain Al Ghadeer
Al-Sadu’s decorations are represented in inscriptions inspired by nature and trees, the most famous of which are “Ain al-Ghadir” and “Awirian”, and designs decorated with leather, grain and horse teeth.
In the past, Al-Sadu was an innovative way to meet the basic needs of people in the desert, and today it has become an important symbol of the creativity of Emirati society and its ability to adapt to the changes of life.