Yemeni ma’awiz weaving:A popular handicraft [Archives:2004/783/Culture]

October 21 2004
A Shabwa man dressed in traditional mawaz and an embroidered cloth band
A Shabwa man dressed in traditional mawaz and an embroidered cloth band
By Nasser Abdullah
For the Yemen Times

It would be rather interesting to speak more precisely on ma'awiz (sarongs) weaving traditional handicraft which is very much obscure. However, I could as well mention something noticeable to point out that weaving of ma'awiz in fact made its appearance not only in Shabwa, Taiz, Wosab, or Hadramout, but also in Aden and other districts throughout Yemen.
Ma'awiz weaving, especially in Shabwa, has been concentrated in some districts such as Lahieah, Hawtah, and intensively Rawdhah- the main center for handicraftsmen, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers etc. They are full of energy and are fully and enthusiastically engaged in their activities.
The old kinds of ma'awiz consisted of a simple piece of white cloth called 'kar' soaked in a black substance called 'neel”. Such neel-dyed clothes are known as 'kisa' and used popularly. They are worn and prevalent among people in rural areas, and were particularly fashionable among bedouin tribes of the former times.
It is noticeable that the coloured ma'awiz weaving is virtually an art pertaining to Lahj which in fact took precedence in it. It is practiced by certain families who pass it on from father to son. This art is manifested in the Saidooni style which was popular nearly at the beginning of 1960s. This kind of ma'awiz was named so after Al-Saidoon, a well known Lahj family who are celebrated weavers admirably producing a beautiful sort of ma'awiz. Later on, in the time of the Federal Government, this kind of maawiz was replaced by the name ma'awiz Itihadi, in allusion to the so-called the Federal State of South Arabia which was established in 1959. Ma'awiz produced in Lahj were worn only by sultans, princes and wealthy people.
Professional coloured ma'awiz weaving was gradually transferred from Lahj, scattering over other districts of the country. Such kind of marketable products ceased to be dyed by neel, and took on new creative patterns.
At the beginning of 70s, the Cooperative Society for Weaving Industries was established in Rawdhah, Shabwa governorate. It was meant to promote ma'awiz weaving in the province. The aim was primarily economic in nature: members of the society wanted to improve their living standards. Not long after, a loom was imported to help increase production. By virtue of the Yemeni unification, which encouraged investment and competition, ma'awiz weaving spread remarkably.
Coloured ma'awiz are classified into three types: “assafi” which are ma'awiz with one colour, “al-kada,” with two colours or more, and “annaqshah,” which means the ones with one colour or more but are thick. The raw materials used in manufacturing ma'awiz include fibers, threads and combs for weaving. They are imported from Indonesia and India.