In 1952, Egyptian architect Ramses Wissa Wassef began an “experiment in creativity.” Convinced that everyone is born with artistic gifts that develop only through practicing a craft from early childhood, Wissa Wassef installed looms in a workshop and invited children to learn to weave. His experiment rapidly demonstrated that any child is able to create works of staggering beauty and skill, confirming that innate creativity can grow with a child into adulthood. This workshop became the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in the Harrania Village of Giza, Egypt where artists continue to create tapestries today. A collection of two dozen garden-themed tapestries celebrating flowers of the desert, villages and the Nile River will be on display at the Garden where visitors will also discover a collection of Egyptian plants within the Orchid Conservatory.
About the Wissa Wassef Art Centre & Tapestries
Today, more than 30 artists keep the tradition alive at the Art Centre, weaving in both wool and fine Egyptian cotton and working up to four months on each tapestry. The wool and cotton are dyed by the artists twice a year from plants grown and harvested from fields at the 12-acre Centre. The natural vegetable dyes create rich, warm colors and are extremely stable.
They continue the unique Wissa Wassef tradition that began in 1952 of weaving without preliminary drawings behind the looms to follow, therefore all tapestries are unique and no multiples are ever woven. Artists are encouraged to select their own subject matter and for children, copying and adult interference are discouraged.
Since Ramses’ death in 1974, his widow Sophie and daughters Suzanne and Yoanna have expanded the experiment. Under their guidance several further generations of children have now mastered weaving. Currently, 30 adult wool and cotton weavers are actively work at the Art Centre in Egypt. This project has a strong impact on the community. It transformed the lives of the villagers, bringing prosperity, education, better health, self-respect and satisfaction to all and high status and equality to the women.