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Nagash painting

  (Redirected from Al-Qatt Al-Asiri)

Majlis painting (also called Nagash painting), is the decoration of the majlis or front parlor of traditional Arabic homes in the Asir province of Saudi Arabia and adjoining parts of Yemen These wall paintings, an arabesque form of mural or fresco, show various geometric designs in bright colors: “Called nagash in Arabic, the wall paintings were a mark of pride for a woman in her house".[1]

It was inscribed on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017 as Al-Qatt Al-Asiri.[2]

The geometric designs and heavy lines seem to be adapted from the area’s textile and weaving patterns. “In contrast with the sobriety of architecture and decoration in the rest of Arabia, exuberant color and ornamentation characterize those of 'Asir. The painting extends into the house over the walls and doors, up the staircases, and onto the furniture itself. When a house is being painted, women from the community help each other finish the job. The building then displays their shared taste and knowledge. Mothers pass these on to their daughters. This artwork is based on a geometry of straight lines and suggests the patterns common to textile weaving, with solid bands of different colors. Certain motifs reappear, such as the triangular mihrab 'or niche' and the palmette. In the past, paint was produced from mineral and vegetable pigments. Cloves and alfalfa yielded green. Blue came from the indigo plant. Red came from pomegranates and a certain mud. Paintbrushes were created from the tough hair found in a goat's tail. Today, however, women use modern manufactured paint to create new looks, which have become an indicator of social and economic change.” [3]

Women’s art workEdit

Women in the Asir province often complete the decoration and painting of the house interior. “You could tell a family’s wealth by the paintings,” Um Abdullah says: “If they didn’t have much money, the wife could only paint the motholath,” the basic straight, simple lines, in patterns of three to six repetitions in red, green, yellow and brown.” When women did not want to paint the walls themselves, they could barter with other women who would do the work. Several Saudi women have become famous as majlis painters, such as Fatima Abou Gahas.[1]

The interior walls of the home are brightly painted by the women, who work in defined patterns with lines, triangles, squares, diagonals and tree-like patterns. “Some of the large triangles represent mountains. Zigzag lines stand for water and also for lightning. Small triangles, especially when the widest area is at the top, are found in pre-Islamic representations of female figures. That the small triangles found in the wall paintings in ‘Asir are called banat may be a cultural remnant of a long-forgotten past".[1]

“The women also offer handmade products such as the brightly painted clay incense burners and miniature 'Asiri houses that are popular knickknacks, especially among Saudi city-dwellers. The model houses are examples in miniature of what the province's women actually do on a much larger scale: The clean whites and dozens of vivid colors that make the region's homes so distinctive have long been prepared by women. In the traditional home, women are responsible for plastering and painting the walls, corridors and ceilings after men finish building them. This practice has resulted in uniquely expressive interiors, as women often compete with neighbors and relatives in the development of elaborate geometric patterns and color combinations. Saudis from other areas of the country often find these colorful houses of 'Asir a source of wonder, an outspoken contrast with what have become the customary Saudi residences, which are decorated in far more uniform fashion, much like European and North American homes.”[4]

Airport artEdit

The Saudi provincial airport in Abha has been designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the region. The Airport Director Abdul Aziz Abu Harba said that "The seating arrangement at the airport lounge has been in the form of a traditional majlis and the walls are painted in various colors reflecting the natural beauty of Asir".[5]


  1. ^ a b c Yunis, Alia, "The Majlis Painters," Saudi Aramco World Magazine, July/August 2013, pages 24-31.
  2. ^ "Al-Qatt Al-Asiri". UNESCO. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  3. ^ Maha Al Faisal and Khalid Azzam. 1999. "Doors of the Kingdom" Saudi Aaramco World. This article appeared on pages 68-77 of the January/February 1999 print edition of Saudi Aramco World#
  4. ^ Ni'Mah Isma'il Nawwab. 1998. "The Suqs of 'Asir." This article appeared on pages 2-9 of the July/August 1998 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.
  5. ^ MISHAAL AL-TAMIMI. 2011 "Abha airport reflects heritage" ARAB NEWS Thursday 19 May 2011.