BEIRUT: While Tripoli’s furniture sector has a rich legacy dating back to 150 years, more recently, producers have found themselves struggling and facing several significant challenges.
An exhibition celebrating the talent of wood-crafters and furniture designers from the city of Tripoli launched Tuesday at Beyt Amir, under the patronage and in the presence of the Minister of Industry Wael Abou Faour.
“This project showcases the evident talent of the people of Tripoli and proves any naysayers wrong,” Abou Faour, who toured the exhibition and met with the designers from Tripoli, announced to the crowded audience. “I am very proud to be standing here among you examining these creations,” he added.
The Tripoli craftsmen of Minjara, a furniture design brand and business support hub in Tripoli, were paired with local designers who guided them during the design and implementation process.
“While conceiving the line 'Minjara Editions,' we started asking ourselves: ‘What is our role today towards the craftsmanship in Lebanon, and especially in Tripoli, which is known for its carpentry?’” curator of the exhibition Hala Moubarak told Annahar, adding: “We thought it would be a disaster if we lost this craftsmanship.”
And so, Minjara Editions was born. The line consists of 10 signature pieces and is the first line to be created by the artisans in the Minjara space in collaboration with designers from Beirut.
The items created include a bread basket, a trolley, tables, chairs, stools, “tawlitzaher,” a paravan, knobs and handles, benches, mirrors, a rocking chair, a step ladder, a tabliye, a chess game, a wood carpet, a tray and a knife, among other creations.
The landmark show traveled to Lebanon from Paris, where it took place earlier this month at the residence of the Ambassador of Lebanon to France Rami Adwan.
Under the Private Sector Development Program (PSD-P), which is funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France in close partnership with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) and BIAT (Business Incubation Association in Tripoli), Minjara is helping Tripoli to revive the sector on a modern vision built on the rich heritage of yesteryear. It's also setting strict quality regulations, helping producers to secure access to market and identify untapped opportunities.
“We did a diagnostic of the situation of this sector in Tripoli back in 2016 and we identified the challenges,” Julien Schmitt, team leader of the PSD-P, said. “One of the challenges was the need for a better connection between the creation and the production, so the answer was to connect furniture producers in Tripoli with designers for concrete results, which are furniture pieces,” he added.
Minjara includes a physical facility located at the iconic Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli in an old building designed by the famous Oscar Niemeyer, where designers and manufacturers meet to develop and showcase their best creations. The platform also serves as a showroom for furniture pieces produced under the Minjara brand and a space for training and workshops to be conducted.
The work has been produced in collaboration with several local designers and Tripolitan artisans who unexpectedly found working together a fruitful experience.
“There was a deep connection between us and the carpenters where we learned certain techniques from each other so that the end product carried our lightweight signature design but with the precision and craftsmanship of the carpenter,” designer Nada Borgitold told Annahar. Her experience was mirrored by several designers who “would definitely repeat the experience,” as designer Sahar Bizri said.
This photo shows the collaboration between designer Sahar Bizri and artisans Jihad Toros and Jamal Korek. (Annahar Photo)
“We were both excited and nervous at the same time because we were working with people that we’ve never met before and who come from a different culture, but it turned out to be a wonderful collaboration where we had many things in common,” Bizri added.
As for the artisans, they found the experience deeply satisfying and educational.
“What I enjoyed the most while working the designers was embedding metals, marble, and fabric in my work with wood, something I’ve never done before,” carpenter Mohammad Al Masri told Annahar, adding: “It was difficult work, but very educational.”
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