Al Jasra
Handicrafts Centre

Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre

The traditional crafts and industries are regarded as a cultural product of the live interaction  processes between the local communities on account of the cultural visions and values and natural habitat on the one hand, and between them and the other communities on the other hand. Hence, these traditional crafts and industries are not only a manifestation of civilization, but tools for the expression of the society’s culture and authenticity as well as a true component of the collective cultural memory that incarnates the life features and the stages through which the society has passed.

Conservation and promotion of the conventional crafts and industries has grown by a popular demand, with many countries viewing this as confirmation of their national identity, with all the uniqueness  of their peculiarities and characteristics, which are a source of their pride and self esteem. In its endeavor to preserve its cultural heritage, the Kingdom of Bahrain represents one of those countries which have become keenly aware of the roles that these crafts and industries may play in determining its national identity and highlighting its cultural heritage which is linked to its present as well as its past as a country where the past, present and future ties combine in one contemporary entity characterized by its uniqueness.

The type and nature of the crafts and industries in any society are influenced by the environment and its primary components, as well as the life style adopted in the traditional industries for which Bahrain is famous, and are closely associated with and linked to the basic needs of the individual in a community which relies on the sea, agriculture and commerce for his living, and whose raw substance are derived from the materials available in the environment, and therefor the environment has played a remarkable role in determining the types of industries and crafts that the Bahraini person engaged in in the past, as a result, this industry is characterized by sheer variety in order to fulfill the requirements of the various activities that the Kingdom had in abundance throughout its history, including pearling, diving, fishing and agriculture in addition to trading activities which has attracted large numbers of the people of the neighboring countries and regions who were looking to earn a living. Hence, many of the Bahraini people got involved in these industries which spread inside and outside the cities.

The crafts are now pursued in markets which are named after them, such as the blacksmith markets, Tanakah market, the goldsmith market, the gypsum market, Tawawish markets and other names, besides other markets which are held outside the cities in some of the open yards and fields which attracted the farmers and the environmental craft artisans on certain days. For this reason, the markets came to be known by the name of the day on which they are held, such as Wednesday market and Thursday market.

Other villages became famous for some of the crafts practiced in the agricultural environment, such as the textile industry in Bani Jamrah village, basket weaving in Karbabad village, pottery in Ali village and AlSaffah in  Jassrah village, while Manama and Muharraq cities are famous for vessel industry and related tools.   

The legacy left by these industries is testimony to the skill and precision of the Bahraini artisan in the production of substances which meet the basic needs of the community and which bestows on the artisan a prominent social status. This has prompted the artisans to pass on their craft to their sons and to teach them the craft fundamentals and secrets. Thus, these crafts passed on through the successive generations of the families and became a source of pride to us to the extent that the family names became linked to the craft that the family is engaged in such as the Haddad, Al-Hayky, Al-Gallaf, Al-Jassas and other family names.

However, in the light of the momentous changes which affected the society’s lifestyles and the fast spread of the foreign consumption pattern and its social penetration of the various social groups, the traditional industries have seen visible retreat because the sons now shy away from engaging in them. The remaining artisans are now on the verge of departing our world which threatens these industries with extinction.

Hence the attention that the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain, is paying to the promotion of these industries by means of  suitable policies that seek to provide the necessary mechanisms in the light of existing circumstances and also seeks on the other hand to pool the resources and efforts and channel them in a manner consistent with the objectives.

Within this framework, an artisan centre has been established that is concerned with reviving the traditional crafts which are looked at as part of the country’s legacy and heritage. The Centre was inaugurated by His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister in the year 1991 in Al-Jassrah village.

Under the roof of this Centre, the Bahraini artisan practices his profession, using the tools and implements he inherited. The carpenter is still using his chisel and saw for producing beautiful pieces of furniture, engraved boxes and wooden vessels. The weaver is working with his manual implement to produce intricately designed fabrics. The potter is still using his hands and legs to run his wheel to turn incense burners, jars and glazed utensils. All of this is combined with a contemporary spirit which is reflected in the modern designs produced with state of the art computer software which the artisan uses to advance his craft for consistency with the spirit and demands of this age.

As for the marketing element, the Centre has adopted state of the art marketing techniques, the most salient of which is e-marketing and opening of sales points at the most important tourist attraction areas in the Kingdom in addition to participation in specialized exhibitions and meetings of handicrafts, locally, regionally and globally.

Muharraq Capital of Islamic Culture 2018