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A must-see
“What anguish drives your anger?” Bokja's installation at Dubai Design Week provokes conversations around pressing topics facing our entire species. Read our interview below...

Bokja, the brainchild of Huda Baroudi and Maria Hibri, has always been known to be a crossroads of culture – one with a vision, a voice and a passion for their base camp, Beirut. For over 20 years, the creative duo has merged their love of fabrics and storytelling with exquisite craftsmanship, and for Bokja’s latest installation currently on display during Dubai Design Week, it’s no different. 

Titled “Let’s Talk About the Weather”, Bokja’s installation uses craftsmanship to provoke conversations around pressing topics facing our entire species and to confront our most urgent issues (whether that be the environment, catastrophes, heartbreaks, and calamities). 

Conceived as a boxing ring, “Let’s Talk About the Weather” features a central punching bag and onlooking cushions – welcoming anyone to enter “the ring of life”. Incorporating a personalised experience, installation guests will receive strips of ribbon to write down urgent topics of their choice, both personal and universal. The only question to answer: “What anguish drives your anger?”

Below, we speak to Bokja’s duo to discuss the installation further, the importance of storytelling and heritage in their projects, how Beirut has played a role in their creative process and Bokja’s call to action. Scroll down for more…

You’re showcasing at Dubai Design Week. What’s the message you hope to deliver through your ‘‘Let’s Talk About the Weather’ installation?

Our latest installation “The Ring of Life” titled “Let’s Talk About the Weather” is focused on using craftsmanship to provoke conversations around pressing topics facing our entire species. Conceived as a boxing ring with a central punching bag and onlooking cushions, the installation hopes to encourage conversations about pressing issues. It welcomes anyone to enter “the ring of life” and confront our most urgent issues, be it the environment, catastrophes, heartbreaks, and calamities. To personalize the experience, participants will receive strips of ribbon to write down urgent topics of their choice, both personal and universal. The only question to answer is: “What anguish drives your anger?”

The installation is not a metaphor for heavy resignation, however. Visitors will tie the ribbon to its Bokja-dized punching bag, loading it with their own private source of anger and creating one more paragraph in the human story, written from lines of our present pain.

Can you tell us more about the technicalities/process of ‘Let’s Talk About the Weather’?

In line with the brand’s sustainability commitment, the 6x6m installation is constructed from recycled shader canvases and silk remnants reborn from the atelier floor.

The punching bag is made of assembled remnant silks and embroideries while the boxing floor is covered in a waterproof shader, a reclaimed canvas fabric used to shelter goods like fruits and vegetables during long truck journeys. Akin to human skin, shader functions as a protection, but also as a record of passing time and weathered journeys. Eighteen quilted cushions, crafted from the same assemblage of fabrics and embroideries, invite guests to engage with the topics – and their own rage – more deeply. The entire installation was produced in Bokja’s Basta atelier in Beirut.

In our opinion, your projects always deliver a message and highlight past stories and heritage. Can you tell us about the combination of these stories with the textiles you choose for your projects/objects?

Bokja is a surface fabrication studio known to craft meaningful narratives through embroidery and textiles to create personable objects, from furniture to wearables. Ever since we started, we had the urge to tell stories and share narratives. Paramount among which is the sustainability issue that is and always has been part of our DNA. It is instinctive and built in our ethos since our inception and it is manifested in our zero-waste policy and empowerment of regional craft communities. Our visual message always touches upon topics from ecological narratives to women’s empowerment. In the last 24 years, that we have been around Bokja leads the way from fast to slow design and fashion.

This particular one is inspired by the brand’s original “Tree of Life” installation in Milan at Rossana Orlandi back in 2013. It was an invitation to answer: “What makes you happy?” and to pin the answer on the tapestry.

“Let’s talk about the Weather” aims to hold a mirror to our faces in the form of a depiction in embroideries of the “Three Monkeys” – universal symbols of “see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil.” Failing to see the harsh reality of today.

How do you feel the user can benefit from having these multiple backgrounds or stories within the object?

In any work we do we would like to convey multi-layered messages. The visitor can decide to stop at the aesthetic level and be happy about it, however, we always encourage people to engage with us and hear our story and pin a comment.

Coming from Lebanon, how has Beirut played a role in your work?

Bokja is multi-layered in the same way that Beirut is. It’s a city that has experienced many invaders and has many layers of civilisation. We try to mirror all those influences, juxtapositions and dichotomies.

How do you see your stories to evolve? What would be your next step forwards?

We are currently working around the theme of ‘fragility’ for our SS23 collection. We are also developing wallpaper and our own line of upholstery fabric based on our signature assemblage. As an engaged actively reactive brand, we would love to create awareness about issues that are dear to our heart and keep on advocating for more mindfulness and empathy.

What is Bokja’s call to action?

A call-to-action à la Bokja: Everyone is an activist. Voice the anger, let’s do something about it. Use your power!

Bokja’s installation is available to view at Dubai Design Week, D3, until November 13.