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Mishkaah Amien
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At Tokara Winery


Sayed Mahmoud was 29 when he wove Grapes and vines, the 7m tapestry commissioned by Tokara in 2001, currently hanging in the entrance to the Winery. He started when he was 9, and has become one of the master weavers of the Wissa Wassef Weaving Centre outside Cairo, Egypt. Seated on a low stool in front of his upright loom, a leaf from the lush garden on his knee to which he was referring as he wove an image of the tree, Sayed said "My back does not get tired, because when I am not weaving, I am playing soccer."

The world-renowned centre was founded in 1942 by Ramses Wissa Wassef, an architect passionate about preserving local craftsmanship and patronising creative expertise. He believed that if children are given the opportunity to create images using a meticulous process (like weaving), without prescribed ways of depicting the world, they are able to develop phenomenal visual memory.

Sayed, a second-generation weaver, and his companion weavers do not use drawings to plan their tapestries, nor cartoons (scale drawings placed behind the weaving to guide a weaver in the design). Grapes and vines was woven entirely from a composition carried in Sayed's head. The process was complicated by the fact that the image was woven on its side, in two sections which join. Notice the seasons in the story about the making of wine in Egypt – when the date palms in the garden were heavy with fruit, Sayed was weaving them thus; when the frangipani was flowering, he depicted it flowering. The tapestry took a year and a half to complete.

The weaving centre began with a group of illiterate local village children. It was Ramses Wissa Wassef that the Swedish missionaries, who then came to South Africa to teach at Rorke's Drift Centre and initiate weaving in craft centres in Botswana and Lesotho, visited, to learn about his teaching methods. The Wissa Wassef Centre is now managed by Ramses' daughter Suzanne and her husband, Ikram Nosshi. Tapestries by Wissa Wassef weavers have been acquired by museums and collectors all over the world.

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