Beirut architect designs depressingly symbolic bulletproof keffiyeh

Published July 10th, 2016 - 10:11 GMT
Salim al-Kadi’s bulletproof “K29 Keffiyeh” weaves a sinister new symbolism into the traditional Arab headpiece.  (AFP/Chip Somodevilla)
Salim al-Kadi’s bulletproof “K29 Keffiyeh” weaves a sinister new symbolism into the traditional Arab headpiece. (AFP/Chip Somodevilla)

Perhaps the most iconic of Arab clothing items, the keffiyeh now takes on a sinister new symbolism in bulletproof form. 

Beirut-based architect Salim al-Kadi fashioned the “K29 Keffiyeh” - featured during this summer's Beirut Design Week - from Kevlar, a synthetic material used in bulletproof vests. According to Dezeen Magazine, al-Kadi smuggled the material into Lebanon, where a woman living in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp then hand-wove it into the headscarf’s traditional fishnet pattern. 

Traditionally the headgear of Palestinian peasants, the keffiyeh – known also as shmagh, hattah, ghutrah, and a host of other local nicknames – has in the past century become a political and cultural symbol for those in need of bold statement piece.  From British colonel T.E. Lawrence’s famously controversial adoption of the headgear alongside Hashemite rebel forces, to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s iconic black-and-white keffiyeh, the scarf has morphed into a symbol of resistance, peace, Arab pride, and just about any other meaning its wearers weave into it. 

And now, it seems, the keffiyeh is a sinister reflection on war in the Arab World.  “[The K29 Keffiyeh] acquires a familiar symbolism upon the battlefield,” al-Kadi told Dezeen.  “It is a keffiyeh for our contemporary landscape.”

Still, don’t expect war zone fashion to become the next big thing.  While the keffiyeh has made its controversial rounds in likes of hipster clothing company Urban Outfitters, the bulletproof model for now appears to remain just an artistic statement – albeit a depressing one. 

 

-ME


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