InterviewsJewelleryWomen

SHEIKHA INTISAR AL SABAH: EMPOWERING WOMEN AT TIMES OF WAR

Philanthropy, publishing, arts, well-being, and jewellery. Kuwaiti princess, Sheikha Intisar Salim Al Ali Al Sabah, has always been creative, energetic, and active, taking after her own mother who at the age of eighty-five is still inspiring all those around her to do more and to do it better.

By Souha Abbas
Sheikha Intisar Salim Al Ali Al Sabah

“If something I do is not good enough, I would be embarrassed to say this is mine. I have a very nice quote that I repeat, at the risk of being too presumptuous: “I am too intelligent to do mediocre”. There is no excuse. I know I am intelligent, and I am proud of it. I respect my intelligence, and I respect the other. Mediocre work would mean one of two things: either lack of knowledge, or taking advantage of other people, and in my book, both are unacceptable.”

From that standpoint, Sheikha Intisar has always wanted to learn new things and improve herself, she even learned knitting online, as well as crochet, needlework, and cooking. And when I asked about the lovely dress she was wearing the day I met her at The Ritz Carlton DIFC, she confirmed that it was her own creation, just like almost everything else she wears. “Since a very young age, I used to make my own dresses, some of them are now twenty years old and I still love them. Even the dress I am wearing, I made it. I found the fabric in a remote area in Indonesia that you could only reach by boat. We visited independent manufacturers working on a fair trade basis, which means that women who make the product get 75% of the revenue. We saw women weaving textile and dying it by hand. I decided to buy a heap of fabric, and it was very cheap”, she says.

Not surprisingly, jewellery making was also on the list of skills that Sheikha Intisar learned years ago, starting with a set of silver jewellery that she made for herself. Unfortunately, it was left behind after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, until she decided a few years ago to rekindle her passion for jewellery making by launching her own jewellery line “Intisars”.

 

“It was always difficult for me to find a piece of jewellery that I would fall in love with. My daughters are even fussier than I am, especially the older ones. They hardly like any jewellery they see in exhibitions or in stores. I think that is because, aside from the wedding band, jewellery these days has no sentimental meaning,” says Sheikha Intisar. “Moreover, for most of us in the Arab world, we became consumers and forgot the meaning of creating things ourselves. This is how I decided to launch my own line of jewellery, thinking that if I manage to create something I would love to wear myself, others might like it too.”

“Intisars” is inspired from the Arabian heritage, fused with Italian savoir-faire. “Italians are the top jewellery makers now. For example, for the Aqqal collection, we are the only homegrown Arab jewellery brand to use the tubogas (or gas-pipe) technique. This collection is based on the woolen rope that holds a man’s headpiece (Ghetra) in the Arabian Gulf tradition. Each bracelet comes with a concealed repository under the clasp that holds wax perfumed spheres soaked with your beloved’s scent”, says Sheikha Intisar.

Delicate fine jewellery-making technique, features also in the Me-Oh-Me collection, which has Arabic words on its rotatable centers. The jewels are made with 18ct gold in the northern Italian jewelry-making town of Valenza, using traditional basse-taille enamel. This technique, developed by the Ancient Romans and revived in the 17th century, features low-relief patterns in gold. Each design from the two collections is limited to 50 pieces, which makes them “more intimate and precious”.

This endeavor in the world of jewellery making is only one of many entrepreneurial efforts that Sheikha Intisar has been known for, starting by running family businesses in the beginning of her career as a business woman. In 2011 she started her publishing house ‘Lulua’ which speaks to women under the slogan ‘You, but simply better’. Sheikha Intisar is also an active philanthropist on many boards and with many organizations, such as Kuwait’s Association for the Care of Children in Hospitals, Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice, animal welfare group K’s Path, and the Human Rights Watch.

“One of the projects that is closest to my heart ‘Al-Nowair’, which is an NGO that draws inspiration from scientific research data and transforms it to engaging and enlightening campaigns and events that trigger people to embrace the message of positivity”, says Sheikha Intisar. “We are also working with psychologists, psychology graduates, and social workers from Lebanon, Jordan and the UK, to provide psychological support to women in war zones. Women carry a large part of the burden in tough situations, as they have to take care of their young children and other family members. Through our initiative, we are trying to offer some kind of support that is simply ignored at times of war, where psychology and well-being take the backseat despite their importance in empowering women and helping them endure the challenges of everyday life.”