Sila is a non-profit design and crafts initiative conceived by the Boghossian Foundation. Its aim is to promote, preserve and offer a contemporary perspective on traditional crafts, know-how and oriental cultures through the creation of an edition of objects.

The millennia-old civilisations of the Orient are in a state of upheaval. The era when their scientific, medical, philosophical and cultural advances radiated across the whole of Europe is long gone, if not completely forgotten by the collective memory.

It is essential to revive their know-how, preserve their tangible and intangible heritage and enable our neglected cultures to regain their dignity.

 

Kia Utzon-Frank & Michel Mansour, ‘Soaps’

Projects

Tragic Magic by KUFstudios

In August 2021, SILA commissioned Kia Utzon-Frank, the designer behind KUFstudio, to collaborate with Michel Mansour, an 85-year-old artisan and Aleppo soap maker, renowned for his mastery of soap making tradition dating back to 1000 BC, in Lebanon for the creation of unique soaps.

Amid the pandemic, the once routine and automatic act of handwashing suddenly became a matter of life and death and turned into a neurotic chore. Kia wanted to change this perspective and instead create a sensory exploration. By playing with textures, colours, shapes and fragrances, the emphasis on handwashing shifted from the fear of a deadly disease to a lighthearted and thoughtful engagement.

After the dreadful explosion of Beirut’s port, in a nation already struggling with challenges such as hyper-inflation, restricted access to electricity, food, medicine, and fuel, the project unfolded into a compelling tale of hope. It became a story of creating a touch of magic amidst these tragic times.

True magic, however, manifested in the relationship between Michel and Kia. Despite numerous differences in their world views, life situations and initial hesitations, a precious dialogue emerged. This dialogue evolved into a mutual respect, creating a transformative learning curve as they shared diverse perspectives.

As the residency concluded, they had crafted hundreds of soaps, continuously experimenting with new patterns, shapes, and textures. Stones and rubble from the Beirut blast found their way into the soap, as a reminder of how the government had washed their hands of the Lebanese people for decades. Even a year after the tragic event, the remnants of shattered homes and lives were to be found everywhere. Kia used these fragments as foundations for the soap sculptures, rehabilitating them as resilient structures for creativity, understanding and cultural respect, as originally intended.

This story of hope and creativity between Michel and Kia is the narrative that SILA aims to share with the Boghossian Foundation and each of you. Preserving time-honoured craftsmanship, encouraging thoughtful dialogue, and appreciating the meaning embedded in each product we embrace.

 

SILA by the Boghossian Foundation

Soaps by Kia Utzon-Frank, Founder KUFstudios