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International handicrafts fair delights crowd

BEIRUT: UNESCO Palace was filled Tuesday afternoon with Russian nesting dolls, Chinese chopsticks and paintings from Palestine.

Some tables carried African wood carvings, others Asian silk scarves – the small room of the UN building turned into an international bazaar. Artists practicing crafts from 17 countries and cultures around the world have been brought in by a local organization to sell their wares at UNESCO Palace, encourage the hand-made goods industry and increase visitors’ international exposure.

“Here in Lebanon you don’t just have Lebanese people, you have a big German community, American community, Russian Community, Japanese, Chinese, so why not,” said Sheri Morris from the organization Grape Vine that put on The Popular Heritage Fair.

“They have a craft, they have something that they want to do,” she said.

Some men and women dressed in the long pants and hats of traditional Turkish clothing while others donned pastel colored Russian dresses with their distinctive white fringe.

At the Turkish cultural table, an artist demonstrated water painting – participants aimed not only to sell their goods but also explain their culture.

“It’s important because it’s my roots, it’s very important,” said 22-year-old Yusuf Karib who was dressed in Turkish clothing. “Especially in Turkey, we have a very old history and an important history, you know the Ottoman Empire, so we are proud that we are Turkish.”

The bazaar was about cultural diversity and embracing different things. Dance troupes put on a performance to start the event with routines drawing from Latin, Russian and American styles.

Hard to find goods like carved ivory sculptures, clay pots and hand designed glasses from Africa can be found at the palace, along with pillows, dresses and scarves. The rarity of such goods in Lebanon drew many people to the show.

Abir Haidar was glad to see things from other cultures around the world.

“It’s very good to see the things from Africa, I just returned from touring there,” she said.

This was the first time the craft show featured international artists so prevalently, but Lebanese artists and their handmade goods were also featured in the show. Grape Vine puts on handicraft events about every four months.

A number of people in the country don’t have exposure to many world cultures, but when they come into contact with them they have a positive response, show participants said.

People lingered at the Chinese table where carved chopsticks and books on alternative medicines were on sale, as well as at the brightly colored Russian goods section.

At her table covered with lightly colored clay pots, metal candle holders and ornate wood carvings, Najoua from Morocco explained that once people come by, they quickly develop an appreciation for her art.

“If they know about it, they like it,” she said.

The Popular Heritage Fair is operating at UNESCO Palace through Dec. 6, from 5 to 10 p.m.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2012, on page 2.

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