Re-envisioning the identity of Bahraini pottery

After the successful participation in Abwab 2016, the Unearthing Bahrain exhibition which is currently on view at the Qal’at al Bahrain Site Museum, Bahrain brings earthenware back into contemporary lives by re-envisioning the identity of Bahraini pottery. The unique exhibition presents a selection of the best works showcased in ‘Unearthing’. 

The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) participated in ABWAB 2016, an exhibition which consisted of six international pavilions held during Dubai Design Week. Bahrain’s pavilion, entitled ‘Unearthing BH’, showcased the designs of two young Bahraini designers, Maitham Almubarak and Othman Khunji, who were commissioned by BACA to collaborate and work closely with local craftsmen to create pottery designs with a modern twist.

Over 100 crowdsourced and commissioned works of pottery were exhibited in the exhibition, entitled ‘Unearthing BH’. Collectively, the works presented pottery craft as it pertains to the human senses while also highlighting the kingdom’s ancient pottery heritage which dates back to the Dilmun and Tylos periods; the ultimate aim being to preserve and enrich the craft by putting it into more contemporary contexts that re-envision the identity of Bahraini pottery.

 Once appreciated for being a versatile and durable material - for example as transportation or storage vessels – the island’s once-prosperous and sophisticated pottery industry has declined significantly and as a result so did the number of factories still in operation. This led the project team of ‘Unearthing BH’ to question if the practice of such a craft and the values that it teaches us can be made more accessible and engaging to the wider public by utilizing the very modern technology that is often blamed for distracting people from its practice. Out of this, the vision of the project was born.

In order to realize the vision, the project team followed a two-pronged approach. Firstly, they created a bespoke, interactive, and integrated interface which allows the general public to replicate traditional craftsmen’s techniques on the screen to create original design concepts out of pre-set templates of everyday objects and submit them to be crafted in real life.