What do Safiya Al Ghafri, Hiyam Al Harthy, and Kifah Al Mazroui have in common?
The three women work as teachers. They are trained artists. They take time off from their busy routine to create pieces of art. Above all, they dream of establishing an art gallery to showcase their works.
Those who visited Bait Al Baranda last week got an opportunity to meet the three talented Omani artists and see their unique works at an exhibition titled Tuhfa -2 (masterpiece), where visitors acknowledged Safiya’s ability to give a modern touch to the old-styled mandoos (bridal chests), Hiyam’s skills to produce artful pottery, and Kifah’s ability to depict vintage windows on canvas.
Safiya, who graduated with an art degree from Sultan Qaboos University in 2003, is proud to tread a path less taken by other artists in Oman. “I realised the need to give new twist to Mandoos during my studies. Younger generation does not like the old-styled mandoos as they prefer the modern, design-heavy boxes,” she said.
Known as mandoos or sanduk in the traditional market, the Omani chests were used to store valuables in the traditional homes. However, the chests are now commonly used to present bridal gifts during Omani weddings, and thus they have acquired the name, bridal boxes. It will contain the mehr (women’s dowry), perfumes, clothes, and jewellery on the wedding day.
Safiya’s fascination with wood design began during her childhood. According to her, she played with wood logs and her mother had predicted that she would become a carpenter.
Safiya’s latest collections include a Khanjar-shaped and star-shaped boxes. “It takes at least one month to ideate, design, and create new mandoos. Once the design is finalised, I assign the carpenter. Decorating the product is the next step,” she said.
An artist who is also adept in henna designs, make-up, and jewellery designs, Safiya said her bridal boxes are in huge demand all over GCC. “Apart from Omanis, people from Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar love my products.”
Safiya met Kifah, a science student, at the Sultan Qaboos University way back in 2000. The friendship blossomed, as did Kifah’s artistic journey. She helped Safiyah in her projects and learnt bits and pieces about arts.
Kifah completed her Bachelors degree in science, but she didn’t leave her passion for arts. “I was very good at pencil drawing when I was in school. Safiya noticed my interest when she saw one of my works. Then she suggested me to train under Abdul Majeed Karooh. The training made me a painter,” said Kifah.
Kifah has been depicting windows of yore onto canvas now. She observes the wood patterns, colour, and surroundings very closely before working on a piece, and the most interesting thing about her work is her wise use of bright and dark colours. “Training under Karooh ignited my passion to work on windows. I am happy to showcase my works at Bait Al Baranda,” said Kifah, who also teaches science at a school in Sohar.
The third member of this clan of artists, Hiyam earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Ohio University in 2005, but she didn’t polish her skills after coming back to Muscat until Safiya prodded her to start working on ceramic and pottery art.
A drawing teacher in the architecture department of a leading city college, Hiyam now makes pottery using an electric potter’s wheel that she then takes the pieces to a special oven in Rumais. “After burning, the pottery has to be glazed before polishing and painting,” she said adding that she prefers working with white clay as it signifies the beginning of life. “Red clay is stronger, but I always prefer white.”
The three women say they are greatful for the support of Bait Al Baranda and leading Omani artist Abdul Majeed Karooh, who is famous for his own depictions of old doors. “It is a pleasure to associate with talented women artists,” said Karooh.
“It is so encouraging to get good feedback from art lovers,” said Hiyam. The success of the exhibition has inspired the trio to work towards setting-up a gallery to display their works and to provide a venue for other emerging female artists. “We want to form a permanent group of women artists,” they said, their voices filled with passion and determination.
Set-up a Viewing to Purchase Art from the Talented Trio
Safiya Al Ghafri +968 9650 2219
Kifah Al Mazroui +968 9238 6525
Hiyam Al Harthy +968 9144 4146