Alaa Hindia's Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia
By Global Art Daily’s Editorial Board
Published on September 10, 2020
Alaa Hindia has been a fixture on the Cairene design scene since launching his eponymous label in 2017. The jewelry designer displays a fascinating ability to eschew the platitudes which reign supreme in Cairo’s increasingly gentrified design scene by drawing inspiration from local designs in a way which avoids facile notions of authenticity. Following his rise, we met with Alaa in London to follow up on the latest developments in his career following his repatriation to his maternal country.
Global Art Daily: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into jewelry?
Alaa Hindia: I got into jewelry in my first year of university. I started my Bachelor’s in one university that only offered graphic design, media design and product design; it took me 3 weeks to decide it just wasn’t for me. I had to be impulsive and decide whether or not I will survive 5 years of it. I then had the rest of the semester to kill so I took some jewelry courses at Azza Fahmy design studio in Cairo, which at the time was the best jewelry school and a really exciting space to explore technical skills for jewelry. They had really great teachers that were really at the top of their game and offered so much variety in terms of problem solving and creative thinking. I took a weekend workshop and then a 6-week beginners workshop. It then morphed into an intermediate course when I refused to do the basics and instead threw myself into the deep end. After that, it has all been self-teaching and experimenting. It helps a lot that I had access to Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s jewelry quarter. It’s a very easy space to wander and find different artisans and materials and processes.
It helps a lot that I had access to Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s jewelry quarter.
GAD: Which materials do you prefer using? You began by crafting everything in Cairo, does that affect which materials you use?
A.H.: I love silver. I’m a bit biased because jewelry in North Africa uses a lot of silver. But I also love brass and copper for the financial ease of it! Recently I’ve been self teaching different uses for stones in various shapes and sizes, as well as entertaining different perspectives on material, but I haven’t visualised that just yet.
GAD: What has your experience been since you have moved to London?
A.H.: My experience has been great! Of course I’ll subconsciously compare day to day working dynamics with Cairo and its jewelers quarter, but in London there is a mix of very singular makers with their own identities. So for example, stone carving specialists, metalworkers, art jewellers; isolating all the different creative fields that jewelers here are able to operate in is a task in itself. There’s an energy in the air that makes everything seem possible and within reach.
There’s an energy in the air that makes everything seem possible and within reach.
GAD: What are your views on the state of Arab jewelry generally and what direction is it going in?
A.H.: It’s been very interesting to gain insight into how the world actually works outside of Cairo — it’s a bit insular in Egypt and you don’t get as much variety of personalities here. I’ve also noticed that there’s a specific readiness to think of jewelry in a more dynamic way. Egypt has a great appreciation for folk jewelry, but the way the contemporary design scene in Cairo has developed was a bit static until very recently. Unfortunately my comparative attitude will never leave me but I’m very excited about Cairo’s future.
It’s been very interesting to gain insight into how the world actually works outside of Cairo.
3. Alaa Hindia’s signature snake earrings and abstract hoops. Photo: Courtesy of Alaa Hindia
I’m very excited about Cairo’s future.
GAD: Your jewelry uses certain motifs, can you highlight some of these and give us some background about their significance?
A.H.: I’m a bit nostalgic in my creativity, so my mind always gets excited to go back in time and try to understand where things come from, whether it’s recent events or events when humans barely existed. So for example the hand — it’s basically a khamsa, but it’s also painted in prehistoric caves, and the Greeks carved them in stone as offerings to the gods. I always look for a multiplicity to any motif that I use. The more you see something repeated, the more you try to wrap your head around why it exists, and also start to believe that you will never be able to transform it , that it’s all cyclical and you just have to roll with it and make it beautiful. There’s too much to work with and I’m greedy!
4. Alaa Hindia often uses the khamsa hand in his design. Photo: Courtesy of Alaa Hindia
I always look for a multiplicity to any motif that I use.
GAD: How have you situated your identity as a designer?
A.H.: I’m still trying to nitpick my identity as a designer and it will always evolve — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly— but the consistent theme is that I always look to jewelry with an anthropological veneer to it. Not to say I’m against industrial manufacturing, but wearing handmade enriches your day in a tactile way that you can’t really experience in any other way.
Wearing handmade enriches your day in a tactile way that you can’t really experience in any other way.
5. Alaa Hindia Snake Earrings, detail. Photo: Courtesy of Alaa Hindia
Alaa Hindia is a London-based jewelry designer and founder of his eponymous brand, Alaa Hindia. Crafted in Cairo, his pieces present an evolving exploration of intimacy and materiality. Placing quality and sustainability as core values, each piece is hand-sculpted and crafted, celebrating its irregularities unique to each wearer.
Follow Alaa Hindia on Instagram.