The Art of Tally:
Tally is a traditional method
of embroidery used for occasional dresses made by women of Upper Egypt.
The National Council for
Women (NCW) commissioned ESFT to investigate the status of the art of tally in Upper Egypt, in order to train
village women in the craft and develop it as an income generating activity.
The project was carried out
through four phases:
1. The pilot survey, which demonstrated that the art of tally was near extinction. ESFT started
this project with financial support from NCW, which was being funded by UNESCO.
Fieldwork activities started in Assuit city by visiting three NGOs that had
access to a few women that were knowledgeable about the craft. In Geizerit
Shandaweel; a village in Sohag Governorate, the pilot study depicted three
groups of women, each with about eight women, who still embroidered tally and sold it. Although this craft
was once very popular as an occasion dress for the rich, few people recalled or
remembered it during the start of the project.
2. Data collection, on the history, designs, motifs, thread,
materials, production costs, retail locations and purchasing value of the art.
3. The training program, where 360 women were trained, 180
per location. This entailed both training the trainers and training the
trainees. All participants were paid for their participation. Despite a few
dropouts, the training progressed successfully. In the village of Geizerat
Shandaweel, the women showed much greater potential for development than those
in the city of Assuit.
4. An in-depth anthropological study, which was done solely
by ESFT. Research was carried out in Geizerit Shandaweel, to get a greater
understanding of the impact of the development of the art, women and village.
There are certain key intangible values in the community that were used as
catalysts for the development of this craft. The main value was the pride the
villagers have love for their village and its history, which dates back to
Ancient Egypt, They acknowledge that they have the purist drinking water in the
whole country, the best soil, the best onions and the best watermelons.
Furthermore, the village hosts one of the main animal markets in Egypt, and the
greatest in the Governorate of Sohag. The people have a great love for commerce
and pride in their origin. They value time and success, and see money as the
means to marriage and in addition they acquired an organizational and
competitive mentality. The people are even proud of their stubbornness and
persistence. Such an environment made it possible to implement the craft
development project and revive the traditional craft. What the women needed was
exposure to the outside world, and direction on how to diversify their products
and design different usages, thus opening to new markets. ESFT supported the
artist of tally in finding new markets, in addition to supplying them with
means for preserving and facilitating their production,
5. In less than three years, the number of women engaged in this
art exceeded 1000, who were contributing to their families’ budgets. The
practice is now sustainable and the women of this village know their way to the
different bazaars and exhibitions, and some of them are exporting their
products abroad though the internet. The women of this village are more
emancipated in comparison to other women of neighboring villages. Leaders have
the liberty to travel to Cairo, and even go to foreign countries to exhibit