The First International Seminar on Crafts in Islamic Architecture with special focus on Mushrabiyya and Stucco Coloured Glass: present state and future prospects, organised by IRCICA and the Ministry of Culture of Egypt with the collaboration of MBC, Cairo, 3-9 December 1995

The first International Seminar on Crafts in Traditional Islamic Architecture with special focus on Mushrabiyya and Stucco Colored Glass: present state and future prospects, jointly organised by IRCICA and the Ministry of Culture of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and co-sponsored by the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (London), took place in Cairo on 3-9 December 1995. The participants deliberated on various aspects of the development of traditional skills in modern times. They issued the Cairo International Declaration on crafts, and a number of recommendations.

The inaugural ceremony of the seminar took place at the Opera Foundation, Al Jazeira, Cairo, under the auspices and in the presence of H.E. Mr. Farouk Hosny, Minister of Culture of Egypt. The ceremony comprised an international parade of the delegates from various countries, crafts people, artists, folk and traditional troupes from OIC countries bearing the slogan "Revival and Preservation of Islamic Urban Heritage", on the Opera House Grounds. The parade was attended by Ambassadors of OIC Member States, Ministers and high officials from Egypt, the participating delegations and representatives of the local and international press. Mr. Mohamed Ghoneim, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Cultural Relations of Egypt gave the inaugural address. Then, Mrs. Siva Obeyesekre, President of the World Crafts Council addressed the ceremony. This was followed by the address of IRCICA Director General Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu; at the end of his address the Director General of IRCICA presented H.E. Mr. Farouk Hosny, Minister of Culture of Egypt, with the Centre's plaque of honour, as a commemorative token of the Cairo seminar. H.E. Mr. Farouk Hosny in his address expressed his pleasure to see that a large number of experts, scholars and delegations from various regions of the world were joining this important gathering to assess the state of crafts in Islamic architecture and look into the prospects of their development.

After the ceremony, the following exhibitions were inaugurated: "Historical Photographs from the Archives of Sultan Abdulhamid II", "Masterpieces of Crafts in Islamic Architecture", "Modern and Contemporary Works of Art inspired by Islamic Heritage", and Workshops of Islamic Crafts. Folklore performances and live concerts from Egypt and other countries continued daily during the seminar period.

In the afternoon session, Mr. Nazih Maarouf, the International Coordinator of the Seminar (IRCICA) introduced the delegates and participants, and confirmed the receipt of 50 papers from specialists and representatives of nearly 40 countries including Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, France, Iran, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Tatarstan, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, UK, USA, Yemen, many from the host country Egypt, and from 15 regional and international organisations. The National Coordinator Mrs. Inam Selim (Director General of International Organizations, Ministry of Culture, Egypt) introduced the 12 paper presenters from Egypt.

During the sixteen working sessions held over six days, groups of speakers and panels of specialists and scholars in Islamic arts and crafts presented the findings of researches on various aspects of the seminar theme. At each session there were at least two paper presentations, a commentary by a delegate and a country paper; hence, the issues at hand were thoroughly discussed both in general terms and with respect to specific cases. The plenary session covered the summary presentation of the seminar recommendations.

The Official Closing Ceremony was held on 9 December 1995. Mr. Nazih Maarouf, Reporter of the Seminar, presented the seminar recommendations; Mrs. Inam Selim, the National Coordinator of the Seminar, presented the Cairo Declaration. The address of the Asian Group was presented by Prof. Dr. Gündüz Gökçe, Rector of Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul; Dr. Asa'd Nadim, Director of Nadim Institute for Mushrabiyya, Cairo, presented the address of the African group; and, Mrs. Faika Uweida, Director, Arab Establishment for Culture and Fine Arts, Beirut, gave the address of the Arab group. The speech on behalf of the international organizations was presented by Mrs. Siva Obeyesekre, President, World Crafts Council; Mrs. Khalida Rahman, Head of Photography Unit, Surrey College, UK, addressed the meeting on behalf of the participants. The address of IRCICA was presented by Mr. Nazih Maarouf, and that of the Foreign Cultural Relations Department, Ministry of Culture of Egypt, was presented by Mr. Mohamad Ghuneim, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Culture.

Recommendations of the Seminar

1. Government and Patronage

To work for the widening of the present limited scope of patronage extended to Islamic crafts and this through the understanding of their actual state and the financial or material difficulties they face as an obstacle to their development; Serious initiatives must be taken to support this sector and actively revive it.
To request concerned parties in every Member State to employ traditional Islamic arts in their important projects.

To encourage the promotional process of Islamic crafts and architecture through the organization of more research, scientific and training meetings to provide an opportunity and a forum for crafts people from the Member States, the regional organisations and the architects and designers so that they can have an interactive exchange and learn from each other’s works, techniques, skills and traditions.

To organize international competitions to to honor the artisans who have shown creativity in the field of mushrabiyya and stucco glass.

2. Financing

To establish a fund for the development of the crafts that would be financed by annual allocations by the Member States and the developed countries and international organisations; these fund would cover different areas and would be used to assist the young crafts people, establish workshops, provide them with raw material and different training techniques and familiarize them with new marketing methods for these products.

3. Documentation, Restoration and Preservation

To increase national, regional and international efforts to restore and preserve the Islamic architectural monuments and protect them against aggressions. In addition, to make every effort for documentation in a proper scientific way, and organize cultural or social events in the relevant places. Restoration efforts can help revive the crafts workshops and employ the crafts people in the different domains of architectural restoration which in turn will stimulate the revival movements in the concerned countries. It is recommended to adopt the experience of Wekalat al-Ghouri in Cairo, since the continued preservation of the historical buildings besides its being a continuous source of inspitation to them.

4. Training

Training is an essential element for forming well-versed crafts people in workshops where experienced artisans, the competent architects and art designers would gather and where modern construction or production methods and materials will be used in order to obtain the best possible results in the field of traditional crafts in Islamic architecture. Naturally, the concerned governments, institutions, and organistions must be convinced of the necessity of taking initiatives, for patronizing intensive programs in this field, and offering all the means that will ensure the realization of these projects.

5. Teaching and Educational Programs for the Children

Educating, teaching and raising the awareness of the society for better understanding of the real value of the craft heritage as an element of growth, continuity and pride. This also provides career opportunities for the unemployed, and possibilities for hard currency income through craft tourism and this by organizing visits for tourists to the workshops of the artisans while at work, or also through the exportation of those crafts. One of the core activities would be the introduction of educational programs for children to make them aware of the real value of crafts, their importance and their place in society; which will lead to a deeper realization of the possibilities of positive returns in this field.

6. Scientific Committees

To stress the importance of establishing specialized committees to produce a technical dictionary for art and craft terminology in the different traditional areas whether in architecture, wood, ceramic, stucco, weaving, beading, carpets, copper or other, using as a basis the Arts Glossary published by IRCICA and all the other available dictionaries in the field. The aim is to produce a comprehensive reference on terms common to all crafts people, architects, and artists, another unifying element in the Islamic community.

7. Exploring New Marketing Opportunities -- Exhibitions

Exploring new opportunities to encourage the marketing of crafts products by assisting artisans to be in touch with the local and international consumer, making them feel that there is a constant demand for, and interest in their product, that some collectors are willing to purchase at high cost; this will appease the crafts people and assure them of their status in society, confirming the message of progress, development, and continuity of the beauty of their heritage and as a consequence of their perseverance in their field and their striving towards better living conditions. To organize periodical, local, regional or international exhibitions, to encourage the crafts people to participate, and produce outstanding art pieces which might attract the vision of crafts people to participate, and produce outstanding art pieces which might attract the vision of crafts people and the organisations of the foreign countries thus causing competitiveness and constant search for creativity, for the continuation of a tradition with a renewed spirit.

To encourage the various institutions to be in direct contact with museums, artistic and tourist organisations to promote and introduce the crafts and find marketing opportunities. Halls in hotels, airport waiting rooms, travel agencies' reference books, museum shops, convention centers and other meeting places can be used for advertisement and the distribution of brochures and other informational material to encourage sales.

8. Exchange of Techniques and Experiences

To organize visits to the artisans and architects of the Member States in order to exchange the new means and methods in use with other nations, a direct connection that will benefit both parties. To participate in international exhibitions, conventions and festivals, to establish a solid basis for Islamic crafts, contacts with importers, wholesalers, interior designers.

The book entitled Mushrabiyya and Stucco Colored Glass in the Muslim World contains the papers presented at the international seminar on Traditional Crafts in Islamic Architecture with special focus on Mushrabiyya and Stucco Coloured Glass.