Travel and Tourism - May 16, 2021

How French Designer Louis Barthélemy Revived a Dying Egyptian Artform

Having designed for some of the world’s leading brands; Gucci, Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo, a trip down to Egypt turned out differently from what French designer, Louis Barthélemy had envisaged. The artist had followed a love interest down to the centre of civilisation, exploring the richness of the country’s capital, Cairo. However the relationship ended, and Barthélemy felt stuck in Egypt. 

Barthélemy dying Egyptian art form khayameya
Louis Barthélemy with his ‘Nile Gym’ tapestry and embroidered cushions. Source: Financial Times

The paleness of lost love soon faded into the lure of Cairo’s artfully decorated buildings, dust-covered bookshelves, beautiful gardens and its talented artisans. As Barthélemy wandered what can best be described as the “Street of Tent Makers” (Souk El-Khaymiya) he noticed the practice of a dying Egyptian art form, Khayameya. The craft involves sewing pieces or patch of fabric onto a larger piece of cotton canvas to create a pattern.

Barthélemy dying Egyptian art form khayameya
‘Nubian Bromance’, one of Barthélemy’s khayameya tapestries – the pieces feature in private collections around the world © Louis Barthélemy. Source: Financial Times

In that moment, Barthélemy found a new kind of love. He visits Egypt regularly and collaborates with artisan Tarek Abdelhay Hafez Abouelenin to design large Khayameya tapestries.

Barthélemy dying Egyptian art form khayameya
Barthélemy’s tapestry ‘The Offering’ © Louis Barthélemy. Source: Financial Times

Barthélemy’s lighthearted patterns reimagine ancient Egyptians in a contemporary setting; at the gym or having a typical modern dinner. His trip to Egypt spun into an art business of its own, with his art pieces exhibiting at Beirut and Cairo as well as in private collections across Paris, Marrakech a and New York.

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