Hanan Sultan’s beautiful designs reimagine the Omani Kumma


September 28 2021

Hanan Sultan’s beautiful designs reimagine the Omani Kumma

Written by Lydia Jaques

On Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting Hanan Sultan and her fellow graduates at the Pause, Rewind, Play exhibition in Gallery S O, Brick Lane. The exhibition was held by the graduates of Central Saint Martin’s BA Jewellery Design 2020 course and their work was a testament to an incredibly talented cohort of students.

Amidst the high quality of all the graduates’ work, Hanan’s Neo Traditional collection was particularly striking. Consisting of three pieces – a pair of earrings, a necklace, and a crown – Hanan’s collection uses gold and frankincense to create pieces of jewellery which not only look beautiful, but still retain the aroma of Omani frankincense.

Hanan spent nine months experimenting with and manipulating frankincense resin before mastering how to create and maintain the shape of the material she uses in her jewellery today. It resembles burnt amber in colour and can be remoulded into different shapes throughout its lifetime. Although, in Hanan’s words, frankincense ‘was and still is everywhere’ in Oman, it has never been used in this way before. This ingenuity truly is a testament to Hanan’s creativity and skill as a designer.

Her frankincense and gold crown reimagines the Omani Kumma, a headpiece usually worn by men. By fashioning the Kumma into a crown to be presented to a bride on her wedding day, Hanan seeks to represent equality in marriage. In this way, Hanan shifts the meaning of the dowry, from its material worth to its symbolic meaning. Frankincense is usually burned during weddings to symbolise the merging of two souls and to strengthen the spiritual connection between the couple. By having frankincense as part of the dowry itself, Hanan places greater importance on spiritual connection than financial exchange. Hanan’s reimagining of the Kumma thus seeks not to do away with Omani tradition, but to strengthen and improve already existing customs.

LJ: Hanan, can you tell us why you chose frankincense in your work?

HS: At the time that I started this for my final year project, I was a student at Central Saint Martins and being in that environment really pushed me to want to do something that identifies me. The parallels came from researching into the history of frankincense and how it historically was treated like gold. This made me think that frankincense was the perfect material to represent my cultural identity. Frankincense is not only visually intriguing but it also engages with your sense of smell. I found that it reacts with the heat of the human body and jewellery is concerned with the relationship between objects and the body. 

LJ: That's amazing, was frankincense a difficult material to craft jewellery from?

HS: Frankincense was a challenging material to craft and manipulate, however it was a learning process and through the journey the materiality of the frankincense guided my approach towards my designs. As a designer, I’m concerned about problem solving and took this as a challenge. 

LJ: Now that you've finished you BA and with such a successful final project, what will your MA focus on?

HS: My current MA is focused on Jewellery & Metalsmithing, but other forms of creative arts and design also do fascinate me. MA is a space for further experimentation and growth so I would like to investigate multiple new processes, techniques and mediums. 

LJ: Finally Hanan, what’s the most exciting collaboration you’ve done so far?

HS: When I was a second year student at CSM, the course collaborated with the furniture company Vitsoe. The aim of this project was to create a wearable jewellery piece using recycled materials and that will create conversation and interaction. Our course was represented at Munich Jewellery Week by the exhibition Fabricate. We hosted a live event at Vitsoe’s showroom in Munich and wore our pieces. I found this project very exciting because of the live interactions I had at the event. I decided to reuse an old deck of playing cards that I had laser cut and wore in my hair.

Special thanks to Hanan and her fellow graduates for showing us around the exhibition this weekend, I cannot wait to see what they will all design next. Hanan Sultan is definitely a young artist to watch as she embarks on a very promising career fuelled by her determination, creativity, and great skill.

Read more about Hanan in this interview published by Global Art Daily last August: https://e-issues.globalartdaily.com/Hanan-Sultan-Rhymes-Frankincense-with-Minimalism

View more of Hanan’s beautiful pieces on her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hananmustafas/

Contact Hanan with questions or commissions here: hanan.sultan1997@gmail.com

And watch out for a podcast with Hanan and our very own Dina Macki coming soon!

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