Omeima’s work is based on Arabic themes created by Waseem Kotoub, a British/Syrian musician and composer in the film above.
The artists in the film Lisa Harker and Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq reacts by spontaneously working into a blank canvas to the music they are experiencing (As detailed in Expression II).


By OMEIMA MUDAWI-ROWLINGS – textile artist
with WASEEEM KOTOUB – Composer

Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings is a Deaf textile artist based in Brighton. Her work is influenced by world cultures – particularly Arab and Western cultures. Her fabric works utilise traditional dying, screen-printing, and devoré techniques, giving her work stunning tactile layering and intense schemes of colour. The works also feature original images and designs which are then embellished with decorative motifs, calligraphy writing, and symbols which all reflect her Arabic heritage and culture.  One of Omeima’s ‘trademark’ symbols is the ‘cochlea symbol’, in which the inner-ear design was a source of inspiration.  People who see her textile art recognise and associate the ‘cochlear symbol’ with her Deaf identity too.

I’ve given Omeima a project which refers to the overall structure/plan of a piece of music.  She had also created stunning textiles work in response to STRUCTURES I based on Mozart’s KV285 in D Major for flute and strings piece previously.

STRUCTURES II is strongly based off Omeima’s Sudanese and Arabic heritage, which she talks passionately about.  The music from this area of the world was something which I wanted to explore as part of the project, so I linked with Omeima’s friend, Waseem Kotoub, for advice and guidance on Arabic music. Waseem is a professional musician, composer and pianist working at the Gulf.  I learned that Arab music largely originates from Greece. The music is often tribal in nature, though it can also be based on story-telling, fashion, or religion.

Ruth – flute, Tom – violin, Helen – viola and James – cello

Waseem also composed a piece of music, The Magic of the East, for the project. The piece is written for flute, violin, viola, and cello, and it reflects many of the elements of Arabic culture and music, also taking inspiration from Islamic architecture. For instance, the piece appeared to be structured so that there were five separate sections with returning themes in between (rondo form), which is something featured often in architecture. The inspiration for this piece is derived from a traditional Syrian love song, الأسمر اللون , which tells the story of a woman singing for the man who she loves – a dark-skinned Arabic man with large, dark eyes – to come home from work in the fields.

The piece sets the scene with a relaxed (‘ad-lib’) flute solo – I’d imagined it as a magic carpet taking off but it actually represented the Eastern sunrise. This is followed by a strong, processional-like theme featuring homophonic movement between the flute and strings. This gives an initial sense of unity and security between the musicians.

Flute solo – the Eastern sunrise

At the end of the processional, the string players pause for a lengthy time, preparing for the next section. This section is more lively, almost as though the music is entering suddenly into the bustling and colourful Arabic culture. The lively, upbeat rhythms in the bass line (played by the cello) gives the music a strong sense of drive, whilst the melodic flute part continues to tell the story. The fourth section, which is scattered with Spanish-Arabic influences, is driven once more by the bass line. This tango-like section is very rhythmically driven and experiences several tempo changes.  In the penultimate section, the flute, violin, and viola all share short melodic motifs and pass these around one another in circles. It sounds almost hypnotic!  Finally, the music slows down as it prepares to end.  In this part of the story the man is tired and returns home to his wife by sunset.  Throughout the piece, the main theme can be heard in several capacities,  highlighting the incessant routine and tiredness of the field worker in the song.
Omeima used her knowledge of the story to create an initial plan of her artwork. The structure of the story gave Omeima the form of her artwork, whilst the different elements of the story helped her to pick out the motifs and colours for the final piece – a hanging wall rug. For instance, the red and blue colours represent two different concepts – the physicality of the red sun rising in the blue side, and the femininity and masculinity within the story.

The final result – the overall subject of music into textiles

Omeima created her masterpiece on fabric by using a mixture of techniques, including screen printing, traditional dying, and devoré transparencies. Each section of the story is represented by a pattern or design, as shown in the following analysis.


Lastly, Omeima added her trademark cochlea motif right in the middle which completed the whole the work. As coincidental as it may seem, it looks like a sun in the middle of the day. The Magic of East has been a delightful insight to Arabic music culture and its style and form.  Linking Waseem’s music with Omeima’s textile art has shown that music can be understood, read, felt, and interpreted into another art form.


The planning of the design – linking to music score


Omeima designing the layout according to the music

Composer’s description of the story – researching text into visual development

Interpreting music – what is happening in the story/deep analysis.

Omeima analysed where the flute, violin and viola have their parts passed on, along with the continous bass line by the cello. Quite hypnotic!!

Musical information handed to Omeima – interpretation and discussion