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Palestinian artisan duo showcases creative class.

MUSCAT: Palestine is a unique country and so is Palestinian art.

Two of the artists representing Palestine at Muscat Festival's International Congress on Innovation in Arts and Crafts make their work from thousands of little pieces. Mohammed Rashad Ja'bari uses broken ceramics while Elias Al Yateem uses pieces of Mother of Pearl shell.

Mohammed used to make only ceramic plates and mirrors, but five years ago he realised the broken pieces of ceramic could also be put to good use.

"I wondered what to do with the broken pieces. I started making small vases decorated with mosaic from the ceramic bits, and as I made them bigger and bigger, I realised they became more beautiful," Mohammed explains.

Using clay vases to start, he uses a pencil to sketch a basic outline, and then pastes tiny pieces of ceramic onto it. He says he doesn't have a complete plan, but lets the designs evolve as he works.

Now he has a collection of vases decorated in mosaic designs, some just 15cm high and others about 1m. The biggest one he brought to Oman has over 43,000 pieces of ceramic in it! Mohammed says he loves working with mosaic now, and he has even started decorating the walls of his home in Al Khalil (Hebron), with mosaics, some as long as 3m.

"I started doing this for myself. Later I thought people might like to buy it," he says.

At the table next to Mohammed's, Elias also displays crafts made of many little pieces. Elias makes pictures, models of buildings, plaques for prayers, book-coverings, and boxes from little squares of the shiny white shell. Sometimes he also carves the shells and adds calligraphy to them.

Interesting work

"I love my work. I love my work so much," says the 25-year-old from Bethlehem, in the West Bank.

When he was just 10-years-old, Elias dropped out of school so he could learn his art.

He says his education was his craft, which he learned from his father and grandfather. "My brother is a doctor and my sister is a nurse. Only I didn't go to school. My school was at home, in the studio with my father," Elias says.

Elias is a Palestinian Christian, but his work is inspired by both Islam and Christianity. He has a model of Al Aqsa Mosque and an intricately carved box that contains a decorated copy of the Quran right beside pictures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

He says it doesn't matter which religion people follow since it's the same God. For him, all that matters is that there are always enough pieces of Mother of Pearl to continue making his beautiful art.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2012

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Feb 13, 2012
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