How best to tell a story? Words, pictures, smell, sound? Anyone who has seen any of Bokja’s exquisite pieces of upholstered furniture would, without doubt, add textiles to this list. Across the Arab world, a bokja is an embellished textile wrapping to carry personal belongings. It is often used to hold a bride’s dowry – gifts from the women in her family wishing her a happy future. Fittingly, Bokja is also the name of Beirut based surface fabrication studio, co-founded by Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri, in 2000.
Their signature approach has an international following – pieces of previously used fabric, each with its own history, carefully joined together and upholstered onto often classic pieces of furniture, which find themselves transformed from one life to the next by the unexpected, brilliant juxtapositions of colour, pattern, texture and surface . Each piece is a one-off and comes with its own passport, listing its name, ‘date of birth’ and description – the start of its new journey.
Baroudi and Hibri work with a wide range of local craftspeople, drawing on centuries of knowledge, often undocumented and passed down through first-hand experience. Each piece demands different skills and knowledge of how they can be applied in a contemporary rather than a traditional context. In an interview published in Vogue Living in 2010, Baroudi said, 'We collaborate with artisans who use their hands, and our mission is to help those people and to make these handicrafts last.' Part of Bokja’s raison d’être is exactly this to breathe new life into tradition, particularly into Lebanon's traditional textiles, that are becoming increasingly disregarded, or seen as old fashioned...
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