The Zay Initiative aims to promote an understanding of the evolution of regional culture, building up public awareness and appreciation of this unique heritage, reaching out to like-minded individuals and institutions nationally, regionally and globally. In addition to seasonal or touring exhibitions and museum loans, the collection is accessed through the digital archive (Collection), first of its kind on a regional level, fortified by a pop-up glossary in both Arabic and English. The Zay Initiative aims to empower women regionally and globally by bringing their untold stories to life.
The Five Pillars of the Zay Initiative are: • Collect, document and conserve Arab dress and adornment.• Present and contextualise through a digital archive and blog.• Encourage intercultural dialogue to highlight our shared humanity.• Inspire and educate designers to create for a sustainable future.• Empower women regionally and globally by bringing their untold stories to life.
We look forward to welcoming you to this dialogue.
OUR GUEST: SHAHIRA MEHREZ
A Creative Advisor to the Zay Initiative and lifelong supporter of Middle Eastern arts, Mehrez began collecting and archiving Egyptian peasant dresses as a teenager. She holds a master’s degree in Islamic art and runs El Arish, a Sinai-based women’s collective that produces hand-embroidered Bedouin pieces. She is passionate about preserving traditional crafts and domestic resources while updating them for contemporary audiences.
Shahira’s collection of over 500 dresses, which is the largest in Egypt (and possibly the world), ranges from heavy black wool Bedouin Sinai cloaks to bright cotton Nile Delta prints decorated with ribbon and Siwan dresses finished with mother-of-pearl buttons.