Farida Talaat celebrates UAE with friends on a group designed quilt - GulfToday

Farida Talaat celebrates UAE with friends on a group designed quilt

The quilt in full view.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

It could be her confident, global experience or it could be due to the power of her talent, but Farida Talaat does not shy away from using superlatives to describe herself. “An innovative public relations and marketing communications professional with experience across industries,” her CV says, “(with a) unique career journey spanning Dubai, Paris and Toronto, and award-winning achievements in multi-national PR agencies … A Certified Issues and Crisis Communicator with a Swiss education and a background in luxury hospitality.

Fluent in English, Arabic and French. A published artist recognised by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.”She is a Dubai-based quilt artist, whose recent venture saw her embarking on a group quilt project by calling upon the UAE’s sewing and quilting community to join her in creating a patchwork quilt revolving around the theme ‘What the UAE Means to Me’.

Quilters and sewing enthusiasts from the country joined forces on a group quilt to commemorate the UAE’s 52nd National Day; each participant created a part of the quilt that reminded them of the UAE, whether a landmark, a feeling, or a memory. Every quilt patch square told its quiltmaker’s story, reflecting on their journey in the country. The different quilt squares or blocks feature various fibre crafting methods including knitting, crochet, cross-stitchery, appliques, fine bead work and hand- and machine-embroidery.

There are typical UAE symbols: palm tree, camel, sand dunes, dates, a map of the country and a Henna-adorned hand. Other squares show the captivating nature of the desert, while some express the essence of what the UAE represents for many expats, with more nuanced meanings such as home, community, family and future.

 Camel and palm tree on the quilt.

Talaat was inspired to create the patchwork quilt as a testament to her love for her adopted home. The Canadian national has been living in the UAE since her childhood. “Much like a patchwork quilt is made of a heterogenous mix of matches of many types fabric, so is the UAE; a melting pot of nationalities and cultures that live together in harmony,” she says.

The project started last summer when Talaat asked her fellow quilter friends and the quilting society to each design and create a quilt block on a 10” x 10” piece of square fabric. A total of ten members from across the UAE participated in the collective effort. Everyone had a special story about what the UAE meant to them; so each square represented something personal to its maker. For example, Lamia Bentellis of Algeria created an eclectic patchwork of colours and prints with the word ‘Family’ appliqued on her square. Somaya Abdel Kader from Egypt has been in the UAE with her family since the late seventies. They toggled between Sharjah and Fujairah, before finally settling in Dubai, since 1984. She created a 3D knitted heart in the colours of the UAE flag.

Sue Markou — a fellow Canadian — created two blocks; one is an artistic depiction of Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Emirates Towers, Dubai Eye, a palm tree and a camel, while the other is an embroidered recreation of the UAE’s map featuring raised embroidery with a moving bead resembling the Jabal Jais zipline. Markou has lived for nearly 20 years in Dubai. “Dubai has given us safety, security and lots of fun indoors and outdoors,” she says. Vidhya Michael of India has created a square in the shape of the flag of the UAE embellished with a stitched outline of the country’s map encircling the word ‘Home’.

 Farida Talaat is based in the UAE.

She has lived here for 30 years - and in India for only 26. “I lived here longer than in my own country!” she says.Malika Rehman, also from India, has lived in the UAE with her family for over four decades; she is proud of the longevity. Her quilt square shows a kneeling camel and a palm tree in a sand dune setting. Talaat’s own square features fabrics in shades of blue green resembling not only the sea, but also the flourishing greenery that the desert country boasts. It is something that reminds her of Canada. A metallic silver fabric in the shape of the Museum of the Future illustrates how the quilter sees the future of her chosen country. It is absolutely bright!

As the work was in progess, Talaat says she led the group along the way, occasionally prompting her peers with reminders and topic ideas, sparking their creativity and imagination.  Once all the quilt squares or blocks were complete, she got sewing. The blocks were assembled and sewn together in rows and columns to create one large quilt top, which was then quilted and completed with a backing to make a finished and meaningful quilt. Then, voila! The quilt was unfurled.

“I like to think it was a patriotic and sentimental piece of work for all of us,” says Talaat. “I’m glad I was able to bring together a group of passionate crafters connected by their crafting skills and their love for the UAE. It feels so good to connect with friends and complete strangers in an entrepreneurial way, and foster a wonderful and inspiring conversation around our shared love and appreciation for our second home. And this is what the UAE means to me.” Quiltmaking as an act of commemoration and expression of community has a long history. Quilts commemorating national events reflect both patriotic fervour and local history. 

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