UALR to host exhibition on nomadic Bedouin people

A face mask with cotton, silver beads, glass beads, coins, and leather is shown from the "Traditional Arts of the Bedouin" exhibition.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Gallery will host an exhibition featuring artwork and artifacts from the nomadic Bedouin people of Saudi Arabia.

The exhibition, “Traditional Arts of the Bedouin,” will be on display from June 16  to Aug. 5 in the UALR Fine Arts Building.

A second exhibit will feature the master’s thesis exhibition of Ted Grimmett. His photography will be on display in Gallery II from July 5-28.

The nomadic people occupying the deserts of the Middle East are known as the Bedouin. The Saudi Arabian Bedouin are iconic nomads immortalized in films such as “Lawrence of Arabia.” They have captured the imagination of the Western world since their first contact with Europeans during Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in the 18th century.

Organized through ExhibitsUSA and Mid-America Arts Alliance, the exhibition includes artworks and artifacts, from elaborately embroidered textiles and embellished metalwork to ceremonial coffee accoutrements and incense burners. The exhibition focuses on aspects of traditional Bedouin life that survive today. 

Visitors to the exhibition will learn how Bedouin arts and crafts frequently bridge the gap between aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, as well as recognize the unique tenacity of Bedouin traditions in an ever-changing political, social, and environmental landscape.

Bedouin crafts require the knowledge of natural environment that has developed over the centuries. Animals are bred not only for desert survival, but also for their hair, skin, hoof, and bone, while other natural materials such as clay and acacia wood are used for everything from pottery to writing instruments.

Traditional arts of the Bedouin reveal the Bedouin to be artists with a legacy of incredible work, not widely known outside their own cultures. The featured jewelry shows each artist’s use of obscure techniques to produce intricate pieces.

Bedouin weaving, still crafted on a stick loom, demonstrates ancient knowledge of natural dyes and fibers, and traditional patterns. The women who created textiles used native stitches, not known outside the Bedouin world, to embroider meaning into the objects.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Amber Clifford-Napoleone, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Central Missouri. The exhibition came from the Nance Collection, which is owned and housed by the McClure Archives and the University Museum at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

The gallery is located in the UALR Fine Arts Building. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment.

For more information, contact Gallery Director Brad Cushman at becushman@ualr.edu or 501.569.8977.

In the upper right photo, a face mask with cotton, silver beads, glass beads, coins, and leather is shown from the “Traditional Arts of the Bedouin” exhibition.

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