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"Sahhara" Hidden Adornments

Sahhara, an elaborately decorated wooden chest box often referred to as a hope chest or trousseau chest, is a piece of furniture that women in various cultures traditionally used to collect and store linen, jewellery and other personal items in anticipation of marriage. Once married, the Sahhara, particularly in Emirati culture, was transported to the newly formed household and placed within a woman's private quarters, hidden away from the public. 

Karima Al Shomely addresses the material culture of the Burqa and other traditional Emirati adornments through her contemporary practice as a response to specific parts of their history.  

This exhibition introduces women as integral cultural icons to the public. It shows their importance as individuals, revealing their personal stories and backgrounds, and offers an immersive glimpse into what is usually hidden from public sight, centring around this container, the Sahhara, that carries secret treasures by Emirati women for safekeeping. 

Like uncovering the lid of a Sahhara, the exhibition invites the viewer to explore Emirati hidden adornments, engaging with playfully contrasting elements of tradition and modernity and discovering these forms of Emirati culture in a new light. It explores the manifold layers of how identity is created, expressed and transformed over time.

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