Abu Dhabi Art unveils 81 Designs and Nada Debs


As Abu Dhabi Art opens to the public today, UAE social enterprise 81 Designs that works Palestinian refugee women artisans and Lebanese designer Nada Debs unveil a new collaborative collection at Manarat Al Saadiyat…reports Asian Lite News

The collection titled ‘On Belonging’ is a culmination of a six-month project inspired by Palestinian artist Nabil Anani’s ‘In Pursuit of Utopia’ which is a picturesque portrayal of his imagined homeland envisioned as one immaculate landscape, without division or disruptions. Reimagined by Nada Debs and her brand ethos that follow the ‘handmade and heartmade’ tag line, this collection features seven crafted pebble chairs and straw lamps, handstitched and signed by the refugee artisans employed by 81 Designs, and created by pushing the boundaries of craft, geography, art and community for a deeper sense of connection and compassion tied to homeland and history. As an ode to the Golden Jubilee of the UAE, the seven pieces represent the seven emirates, while the craft revives a sense of belonging connected to the culture of Lebanon and the art pays homage to the land of Palestine.

‘On Belonging’ at Abu Dhabi Art 2021

Bringing together artists and artisans, creators and designers, to weave together design, craft, art and culture by revolutionizing the use of traditional embroidery Tatreez,  Nesrine El-Tibi Maalouf, Co-founder of 81 Designs, said: “Since 81 Designs workshop is located inside the Ain El Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, the team of artisan women faced major challenges stemming from the country’s grave economic crisis, with power cuts, water and petrol shortages, not to mention the camp security restrictions, and ongoing COVID health pandemic. We are very proud of what these ladies have achieved.”

Despite the challenges faced by the team of artisans within the 81 Designs workshop located in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, this collaboration was possible due to the resilience of the women behind the work and is a testament of their commitment to tradition and craft.

Nesrine El-Tibi Maalouf, 81 Designs co-founder

Nadine Maalouf, Co-founder of 81 Designs says: “Our mission is to narrate the artistic tale of old traditions. Our collaborations allow us to empower the refugee artisans we employ by providing them with sustainable jobs. Our collaboration with Nada Debs reflects a strong sense of community and the fusion between craft and design.” 

As a true craft-custodian and educator, Nada Debs’ vision for new-materialism comes to life through the design process and creative collaboration which weaves emotion into furniture and design by adding depth to traditional Palestinian cross-stitching. “My work is about identity, restoring and elevating traditional craft and instilling a sense of belonging. By revisiting roots and working with refugee artisans, this project was an infusion of identities and a heartfelt dialogue conveyed via craft, relaying messages of hope and freedom, dignity and identity,” says Nada Debs.


The ‘On Belonging’ collection is available for purchase at Abu Dhabi Art 2021 which runs until Nov 21. For more information, contact: Info@81Designsme.com and visit www.81designsme.com.

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