Wednesday, February 23, 2022
She was an extraordinarily accomplished woman. Alumna Ghada Hijjawi Qaddumi earned academic degrees from AUB (BA in economics in 1969, BA and MA in Arabic literature in 1971 and 1975), LAU (BA in fine arts in 1976), and Harvard University (PhD in the history of Islamic art and architecture in 1990) and held many prominent positions including curator of the Islamic Art Museum and deputy director for culture at the Department of Antiquities and Museums, National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, both in Kuwait. She is especially well remembered for her compassion, devotion, inexhaustible energy, and the very personal connection she made with people, wherever she went, during her almost 20 years with the World Crafts Council (WCC). “My mother was relentless in traveling the globe to promote her handicraft program and vision,” says her son, alumnus Dr. Nabil Qaddumi. “She especially cared about the people behind the handicraft creations. That was always her focus.”
Dr. Hijjawi Qaddumi joined the World Crafts Council in 2004 as vice president for West Asia Sub-Region before rising to become senior vice president for Asia Pacific Region (2009-12). In 2013, she was elected president of WCC-Asia Pacific Region, a position she held until January 2021 when, at the age of 88, she was elected president of the World Crafts Council – International. Tragically, she passed away just three months later: on April 1, 2021. “She was still full of vigor, motivation, and enthusiasm to continue the transformation process of her organization (WCC), but all that was cut short by COVID-19,” remembers Nabil.
It was her training in the field of Islamic art that led Dr. Ghada to the world of handicrafts. “With handicrafts and crafts people,” says Nabil, “my mother realized herself, drawing upon her expansive knowledge and compassion for the struggling crafts people.” One of her greatest achievements was the publication of several books on Islamic art, including Book of Gifts and Rarities (1999) and Islamic Art and Patronage-Treasures from Kuwait, 1990. She was also proud of the work she did at the World Crafts Council: the completion of several initiatives dear to her heart including the on-line Encyclopedia of Handicrafts in Asia Pacific Region, the holding of several inter-regional handicraft events, the support for craft education, and the designation of 40 craft cities to promote and preserve craftsmanship treasures and develop artisanal talent. Dr. Ghada’s son, Sa’ad, was recently elected president of WCC-International thereby ensuring that Dr. Ghada’s legacy and her vision for WCC will live on.
Although she traveled extensively, she returned to the AUB campus often. “She loved AUB,” remembers Vice President for Advancement and Business Development Imad B. Baalbaki, “and made it a point to attend activities on campus whenever she could. I have especially powerful memories of her engaging with faculty and alumni during the 150th anniversary celebrations at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.” Nabil smiles. “AUB reminded my mother of her youth. It was the cultural and educational center of a vibrant city, the platform for the exchange of ideas and creation of thought. AUB was where she made everlasting friends, where she prepared for the education and career to follow. She wistfully remembered her professors – Dr. Ihsan Abbas is someone I remember her mentioning often – from that time who challenged her mind and molded her into the methodical and disciplined person she became.”