The House of Mirrors
Parimita Barooah Bora
Saturday, September 25, 2010
It was five minutes to 10, when we reached the unique House of Mirrors in Qadisiya area of Kuwait. We had an appointment with the lady of the house at 10am to have a tour of the house. As we rang the bell, a very sweet beaming elderly lady in a satin laced gown opened the door to welcome us. Just like the house, the radiant smile of the lady fascinated us. She is Lidia Qattan, the creator of this unique house. Born in Italy in 1936 as Lidia Scagnolari , she became Lidia Qattan when she married the famous Kuwaiti artist Khalifa Al-Qattan in 1958. She herself is a painter, sculpture, jeweler and writer.
As we entered the house, we were astonished at the glass work in the walls, passage, doors, windows, ceiling ,furniture even kitchen cabinets etc, in short she has decorated her entire house, inside and outside with pieces of mirrors. A perfect host as she took us to the drawing room and served us cold drinks, cookies, pastries and chocolates. She took extra care of our 2year old daughter giving her juice and repeatedly asking if she needed anything. We took with us gifts which represents our culture and state ASSAM which we gifted her. After that she sat down and started her story. Fascinating, gripping and engrossing, it took us to 60’s when she started her first piece of glass work. In 1960, when her husband went abroad for his art exhibition, she felt lonely and decided to decorate the cabinet which prior to his departure her husband had completed and created with his own hands. She had some broken pieces of mirror which she used to make the cabinet shine. When her husband returned he was happy, impressed and dazzled by her work.
He inspired and encouraged her to do more. For many of us, we superstitiously belief not to keep broken mirrors at home as it suppose to bring bad luck to the family. But for Lidia a broken mirror inspired her to do something creative and set her upon the journey of a lifetime. Again once during another tour of her husband, when he was away for four days, she decorated the one wall of her drawing room with mirrors making fish, sea animals, Arabic inscription, making it look like a sea. Again after her husband’s return he just loved it and encouraged her to do it on the other walls. Thus began her journey of and transformation as she evolved into an artist into her own right and used her very own home as her canvas. Over the course of several years Lidia has painstakingly ‘bedazzled’ every inch of her home with broken mirror pieces in every shade of the rainbow. Today it is a popular tourist destination and museum with visitors taking guided tours every day.
The tour begins in the kitchen, which is called ‘My World Hall’ and features designs relevant to the mystery of science followed by a walk through ‘Planet Earth Hall’, or the living room, which is designed along the lines of our Earth and nature. Next, visitors are led to ‘Zodiac Hall’, which was Lidia’s now grown-up daughter Jalila’s bedroom, and it is covered with sparkling galaxies, planets and all the signs of the Zodiac. Visitors walk through a hallway with a dual theme. Known as both ‘Shark Hall’ and ‘Corridor of Nations’, the journey of shimmering reflected light goes on to enthrall guests with sharks and other wonders of our world. The tour climaxes with breathtaking designs featured in ‘Sea World Hall’, ‘Universe Hall’ and ‘Knowledge Hall’, which also serve as a bathroom, bedroom and library. In the room of the Universe, there are paintings on the wall done by her and the glass works on the floor of the room are all related to the universe. It begins with the beginning of the Universe, to the consciousness of people on how to spread love and peace. There is also a painting of Koran, which she has decorated with glass.
Then we take the ‘Stairs to Inspiration’. The staircase, which features gilded birds in flight, leads to the first floor that houses separate art galleries for both Lidia’s and her late husband Khalifa’s work. The first big hall is the art gallery for her husband’s paintings, next to it is a small room, where she had kept the things used by her husband while painting very nicely. There are also pictures of Khalifa done by other artist, pictures with dignitaries, certificates by associations and universities in this room. We came to know from her that her husband was a founder member of Kuwait’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters. Then we proceed to the next room where there are more paintings by her husband Khalifa. The small place in between the two rooms, there are paintings and jewellery done by Lidia. After that in the other rooms are Lidia’s art….paintings on different canvases, mirror work, sculptures, lamps, jewellery and candleholders.
“And now, the star of the show”, she says, leading us to a darkened chamber containing what she calls “art therapy”. With soft music in the background, it has a relaxing environment. Just as the stars of the zodiac glowed in darkness in the downstairs, similarly this room has paintings and few work of light which glow. She left us for few minutes to contemplate. The tour ends with “nucleus of the galaxy”, where she creates satellites, stars, planets on the walls and ceiling. “Look at the sky”, she says.”You see them moving”.
One is indeed fascinated and mesmerized by now. For many people it is the “House of Mirrors” but to Lidia it is the fulfillment of a dream.
Ring ahead to request a tour and you should bring a small gift in exchange for the hospitality you will no doubt receive.
Address: House of Mirrors
Qadisiya, Block 9
Street 94, House No 17
Phone Number: 22518522
Parimita Barooah Bora is a onetime lecturer and currently she is a stay-at-home mom. Having done her post graduation in English, Education and Travel n Tourism, she taught for few years until her relocation to Kuwait. She likes to share the experiences of her life as a freelance contributor to various newspapers, magazines and websites. Now, as a freelance writer and teaching children in the evenings at home keeps her busy. Member of IWIK Team.
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