Ahhhh, my creative soul has been filled again. I have recently felt myself running low on creative juices, but yesterday morning I had the opportunity to visit The Arab organisations Headquarters Building, also known as the Arab Fund Building, in Shuwaik.
Ok, so I agree the name needs a little work, but the building is truly quite remarkable. A piece of art. An administration building created by craftsman, designers, and materials from the likes of Italy, Morocco, Syria, and yes, even South African Yellow Wood can be found within it’s walls.
According to their website,
“The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building, situated outside Kuwait City in Shuwaik, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. Completed in 1994, it is home to four major Arab organizations: the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company.”
And I suppose big fancy meetings do take place there with really important people but…
…according to me,
“It’s an exquisite collection of art, antiques, and ideas – collected and bartered for – for the viewing pleasure of anyone willing to appreciate it.”
And appreciate it we did.
Our tour started with a sense of contrast. We were 3 housewives, with quite an artistic flare (think ‘almost cool’ Gypsies) combined with 3 middle aged men in black suits who probably held important titles and regularly used terms like; “not withstanding” and “including, but not limited to”.
Anyway, it was a treat for us all.
This building took 2 years to design and only 3.5 years to build. The attention to detail is unrivalled. It’s so very beautiful.
An absolute treasure of a find for a photographer like me, who has a passion for history and culture.
May these images from today inspire you as much capturing them did me. In this world filled with contrasts, details, and distractions, sometimes to find the most beautiful side of something, all we need to do is look up.
Side Note: Please make the effort to visit the website, it is filled with many interesting behind the scenes imagery and extra details of each piece of art within the building itself. To book your tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lets just say, if my husband came home from a business trip abroad and found me on the floor with broken pieces of glass and plastering all over the wall, I think he would have had me committed. Thankfully this was not in the case of the lovely Lady Lidia.
For what started out as a small mirror mosaic project to cover her daughters writings on the wall, turned into her greatest life long work, her pride and joy, The Mirror House of Kuwait. We were greeted by this tiny, Italian woman, with years of life knowledge and life experience under her belt. Yet somehow she maintained her zest and passion for life and she couldn’t wait to share it with us.
We started with a lesson on mosaics and the story of her beginning, but we were quickly whisked away and literally taken on a once in a lifetime journey through what can only really be explained as living surrealism.
She met a young Kuwaiti man in the UK and he stole her heart. She then moved to Kuwait in the 50s, settled down, got married, had a family, lived life, survived wars, survived parenting, and found comfort in creating.
Her story is a cherished love story. Her husband, Khalifa Qattan, was a very well known and respected pioneer in the Arab art world. Yet, he very rarely called her Lidia, he preferred to call her lady, even up until his last days on this earth. Swoon! She brags that when she arrived in Kuwait, most of the houses were still built of clay. Yes, she has seen Kuwait change over the years there is no doubt of this. I asked her what the biggest change she witnessed was, expecting to hear the standard, “oh we used to be able to drink and now we can’t” or, “we could wear short skirts back then and no one bothered us about it” but no, to my surprise, she said the greatest change came from within the family unit.
The family unit has changed.
When she first moved to Kuwait she testifies how most children were being raised by their parents, both moms and dads were raising their kids. She shares that in today’s times children are being raised by nannies. It’s quantity over quality of children that has become important. There is a whole generation of children being raised by nannies and no longer by their parents. And you see it filter over into the Western culture within Kuwait too. All too often it’s the nannies with the kids at birthday parties or afternoon activities, very often alongside the parents, even then parents take more and more of a back seat.
Anyway, getting back to the tour. What a ride. She took us into every room where different themes are represented, from the earth to outer space. Her birds were my personal favourites. On the top floor we even got to appreciate her husbands works. a dedicated gallery to his finest pieces. I loved this part. He was a visual communicator for sure. The statements he made with his art were honest, bold and unapologetic. He loved being Kuwaiti and was so proud of that, but he was despising what the nation was becoming, the changes that the country was going through and he used his art as his voice. It still speaks volumes today. I definitely learnt a lot about the history of Kuwait on this tour, It was interesting for sure.
In the rooms next to his gallery are works of her own. It was fascinating to see these two worlds showcased on one floor. Two very different minds with similar view points being expressed in two very different ways. It was remarkable.
My favourite piece belonging to Lady Lidia was the piece with the two keys. These represent the keys to a woman’s heart (men, pay attention).
1 – Respect
2 – Generosity (not as in things or money, but rather time and affection). If you get these two things right her heart will be forever yours.
Her art therapy rooms are quite something, too. Darkness, with colour of lights and lights of colour.
Admittedly, I spent an hour on my bed in the afternoon with a warm cup of tea processing the experience. Trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. I was most certainly over stimulated for the better part of the afternoon. And wonderfully so. I will never forget this morning at The House of Mirrors. For anyone living in Kuwait, you need to move this to the top of your ‘to do before you leave’ list. This experience has the backing of both Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet.
I left informed and inspired.
If you have a House of Mirrors experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you.
Special note: One thing that makes this experience even more unique is that you become a part of the visual experience. With the mosaics being mirrors, your reflections are integrated. Thus making everyone’s experience unique to them.