Photo: Instagram @tsakhistudio

The Beirut-based architecture and design studio T SAKHI, known for its unique techniques to encourage curiosity and questions about our everyday surroundings, has joined forces with Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council to create their most significant installation: “Letters from Beirut”. A platform used to harness ancient craftsmanship by engaging women artisans across the UAE and the Middle East, the new installation is a handcrafted poetic project in honour of the Lebanese community, which highlights Lebanese citizen’s thoughts and emotions during these challenging times, shaping them into powerful words written in letters.

The project is dedicated to revive authentic conversations and involve more than one of the senses experienced with strangers. The first edition will take place in Venice in Giardini Della Marinaressa during the 5th edition of The European Cultural, opening alongside the Venice Architecture Biennale on May 22nd 2021, and will continue until November 21st 2021.

“Feeling like we live in an era where authentic connections are replaced with constant virtual connectivity, we are gathering a collection of 4,000 letters from Lebanese citizens sharing their thoughts and feelings with strangers during these peculiar times. We aim to continue the dialogue on the reconstruction of Lebanon’s future and the restoration of our collective memory.”states Tara and Tessa Sakhi Co-founders of T SAKHI.

“Through the ‘Letters from Beirut’ project, Irthi’s collaboration with T SAKHI aims to instill hope amongst the citizens of Lebanon and support artisans and sustainable design processes while also reinforcing our commitment to the preservation of cultural and craft heritage of the region.” BinKaram added: “The site-specific urban installation will foster dialogue and enable Irthi to raise charitable contributions for the reconstruction of Beirut through our partnership with UAE-based non-profit, The Big Heart Foundation’s ‘Salam Beirut’ campaign. This collaboration thus sets the tone for Irthi’s vision on the future of urbanism and its role as a gateway for crafts preservation across the MENASEA region.” Says Reem BinKaram, Director, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.

The dynamic-duo sisters, Tara and Tessa, are transforming a “wall of thoughts” to create awareness. The installation consists of a 6m linear wall, which engages pedestrians and encourages them to choose one of the 4,000 handcrafted scented pouches to take home.

Within each pouch is an unfolded personal message from a Beiruti survivor, encouraging the reader to reply. Alongside the letter, they’ll find a seed, symbolising rebirth to plant and grow. The more pouches pulled, the more the wall will break down, reaching a point where it will entirely vanish. The wall is a metaphor used to convey how humankind can overcome any obstacle with communication and interchange.

The installations primary mission is to allow others to live through the moments of others and experience what they had experienced and, more notably, plant a seed for healing and heartfelt connections amongst others – in a time where the Lebanese community and world need it the most. Furthermore, leaving a message of hope for the country and allowing the letters to exist on their own in these strangers’ homes.

With the hopes to inspire and raise charitable funds to support the impact of the devastating blast which occurred on August 4th in Beirut. These funds will be supporting the countries healthcare, education and living – through the following trusted NGO’s:

1. Bank to School Initiative by Arcenciel, supporting children’s education.

2. Beirut Heritage Initiative, an independent inclusive collective striving to restore and preserve Beirut’s architectural and cultural heritage.

3. Salam Beirut Initiative by The Big Heart Foundation, raising funds for various sectors: Healthcare.

On behalf of the cause, Irthi Contemporary Craft Council has donated 4,000 pouches solely handcrafted by 37 Emirati craftswomen from the Bidwa Social Development Programme in Sharjah. Each pouch is made up of recycled and sustainable felt – incorporating a traditional hand-weaving pattern used in “Safeefah” and ‘Sayr Yaay’ technique.

Furthermore, each paper used on the installation has been handcrafted by University students Mariam Abdulkarim, Amal Al Hammadi, and Zainab Adel – as a part of their graduation project. Even the seeds found in the pouches are right from the authentic Lebanese cuisine, using Coriander, Zucchini, and Green beans – all edible plants, with a natural scent from the Cedars of Lebanon.

The overall mission of this unique project is to empower, sustain culture and carry on with heritage while supporting artisans and sustainable design process in the Arab region and highlighting a country in need of hope while falling into a downhill economic collapse.