Hundreds of artists from the UAE and other countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt, have been able to sell their handmade products without worrying about logistics, fuelling craftsmanship in the region.
Two Dubai sisters have been instrumental in encouraging crafts through their website Ananasa.com that currently has items like art, furniture, accessories and jewellery. The co-founders, Arab-Canadian Rania and Zaina Kanaan, started the website in October 2011 and have since witnessed an increase in the number of UAE artists as well as in the number of NGO (non-governmental organisations) collaborations.
Zaina told Gulf News, "Interest has grown around the Middle East with more and more amateur artists registering. Those who have been creating unique pieces as a hobby are now selling these, and producing more pieces. With aspects like logistics, start-up capital, shipping, customer relationships, etc., taken care of, all they have to do is focus on what they love doing."
Rania added, "The website bridges the gap between amateur artists and customers." The website's collaboration with NGOs is helping fuel more than craft. Zaina said, "We encourage non-profit partnerships. We deal with NGOs around the Middle East. In the UAE, we collaborate with Nawa, a sustainable fashion brand that supports The World Food Program; Airayan, another sustainable fashion brand that supports Pakistani craftsmanship and women diagnosed with cancer; and Al Ihsan Charity Center in Ajman that provides assistance to poor families."
Rania said, "We also support Middle Eastern crafts like traditional Palestinian embroidery under the concept Yasmoon that works with underprivileged Palestinian women residing in refugee camps in Lebanon."
The duo's work also extends to empowering women. At the Al Ihsan Charity Centre, established in 1998 under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ajman, an artist registered with Ananasa.com visits every month to run a workshop. Rania said, "The artist teaches women from poor families different crafts. Last month, they learnt how to make accessories. These are sold through the website with 100 per cent of the proceeds sent to the Centre."
The spokesperson and trainer with the Centre, Kefah Hamza told Gulf News, "We need more people like Rania to organise workshops. Last month, 15 ladies at the centre learnt to make rings and jewellery pieces. This skill will aid their livelihood."