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From Tradition to Modernity: Omani Women Artisans Document Their Changing Lives

Omagination: A journey from desert, coast, and island to see through the eyes of Omani women artisans

Oman, on the easternmost edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been a hub of overland and seafaring trade, for more than 5,000 years, and today’s artisanal production techniques are rooted in a rich history of cultural, political, and economic exchange.

In the last 40 years, Oman has experienced fast-paced changes linked to the globalization of industries, most notably the oil industry. This ‘Renaissance’ has allowed for increased flows of technology and materials in the country, creating new job opportunities for Omanis, and new possibilities for innovation in the modern market.

The expedition we are undertaking with Omani women artisans is a literal and visual journey through geographical and culturally diverse locations as they record their sources of inspiration. Through the project, cameras have been provided to Omani women artisans in order to see ‘through their eyes and in their hands’ the evolution of their living craft heritage in a time of rapid and necessary transition.

Why women artisans?

This new era of transition poses particular challenges for women. The purpose of the expedition is to explore the ways in which women artisans are meeting these challenges. The photographs taken by the women will reveal their voices and their creativity through various art forms and explore the fluidity and adaptation of Omani culture in this new era.

We are now 3 months into the project and the women have already taken many high-quality photos of daily life activities, travels and holidays.We will collect the photos in a few weeks time, and can’t wait to see what they have done.

As this is a photography based documentation project, the stories can be best told through visual imagery in the form of photographs.We hope that the above shots in the photo gallery taken by myself, Marcia Dorr and Jonathan Moretto capture the different project contexts and begin to introduce to you some of the remarkable women, whose own pictures you will see in the near future!


Project team consists of:

Kelsy Wilson, Young Explorer Grant Recipient and Project Leader, is a master’s student in Anthropologie et les métiers du développement durable (Anthropology and Sustainable Development), at the Université d’Aix-Marseille 1 in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Marcia Dorr, Project Advisor, was born and raised in America, earning degrees in Fine Arts and Education from the University of Michigan. In 1986 she moved to the Sultanate of Oman, where she is a sought-after Material Culture Specialist, and with her research partner, Neil Richardson, wrote the comprehensive two-volume book, “The Craft Heritage of Oman”.


Learn More National Geographic’s Guide to Oman


  1. Aurel
    December 25, 2012, 9:16 am

    Kelsy documents the ongoing cultural changes in the Sultanate. While the standard of living raises, the rich arts and crafts heritage is about to vanish before it can be passed on to the next generation. Can contemporary media (digital cameras, communication technology) transform this heritage? Kelsy’s photo documentary is a step in this direction and I hope we will see more of her work in the future.

  2. Judi Garfinkel
    Muscat, Oman
    December 5, 2012, 10:06 am

    Marcia Dorr and Kelsy Wilson artfully guide us into the lives of Omani women artisans, with a keen sense of tradition, beauty and future possibility. Marcia, we look forward to your return to the Center for International Learning http://omancenter.org to lecture students again!

  3. Pamela
    November 28, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Wonderful story emerging here! Great photographic documentation of this project, Oman and these women’s lives! Look forward to reading more!