For many culture, a broken mirror means bad luck in the unforeseeable future. But for Italian-born contemporary artist Lidia Qattan, seeing her daughter with scattered glass shards on the floor sparked a creative idea. To minimize her daughter’s wall doodling, Lidia started to place the mirror pieces on the wall with artistic patterns. This was the start of decades of work to transform her humble home in Kuwait as the only house in the world covered in mirror mosaic – the Mirror House.
I could see the enthusiasm in Lidia’s narrow set eyes as she briefs us on our tour while we’re having some tea and biscuits. Her gown which she made herself, splashed with a multitude of colors on dark fabric complete with flying semi-transparent ruffles along her neck, means we’re in for a show. Lidia herself, even at her 80s already tours her guest personally. So it’s like a performance for her. No one else can tell it better than Lidia herself.
Lidia Qattan (Lidia Al-Qattan) came from a generally poor village in Italy. Struggling to find a job and make a better life for her and her family during her teens, she stumbled to an opportunity to study in England. She worked hard to learn to get admitted to the school. During the exam, she met Khalifa Al-Qattan, a Kuwaiti, studying at the same school. They formed a special friendship and kindled their love when Khalifa proposed marriage after graduating with two honor degrees.
The Mirror House
In 1960, Lidia and Khalifa finally settled in Kuwait. Initially staying at Khalifa’s parents, they moved to Qadisiya when their house was ready even when there were no electricity yet. They were just happy they have a home of their own. Soon they had a daughter, Jalila. In a way, Jalila indirectly spearheaded her mother’s creations. Doodling at walls and accidentally breaking a mirror, Lidia decided to use the mirror pieces as decoration for her cabinet walls. It was also a struggle to cleanup the doodles on the wall as it ruined paint so Lidia decided to coverup the walls with more mosaic art. It was really an unconscious effort for her to make beautiful things. In 1972, she began to take it seriously.
At the same time, her husband, Khalifa has established himself as one of the pioneer artist in Kuwait. They both inspire each other to be better in their crafts. Lydia manually worked on the wall mosaics working up to more than 20 tons of mirror pieces. Her major hump was her battle with termites. When she initially thought that covering the walls with art would deal with the termites, it had eaten deep into the wood of the cabinets and spread into the walls, floors and ceilings itself.
In 1985, she had to strip off all the mosaics and deal with the termites first then manually and meticulously bring them all back together like puzzle pieces. Such intricate and arduous work.
An Art of a House
Even walking around the neighborhood of Qadsiya, it’s easy to spot the 2-story, Mirror House. Golden and glimmering with captivating patterns under the sun. The Mirror House is a sensory expedition into the couple’s creative expression. We go into different sections of the house and each of the rooms have certain themes.
Starting with the intricate bathroom that felt like a part of a crystal palace. Then the solar system room. Lights-off, it’s another look into Qattan’s world. Not only has she thought about the mosaic art under the light but also the details and the world with blinking lights. Even in the library room, the patterned door makes it look enigmatic. The short elevator ride made us elated as the wall was adorned with mosaic patterns too, changing as we go up.
The 2nd floor houses a gallery of Khalifa’s painted works and some of Lidia’s sculpture made from old furniture parts. Then a little playtime in a room where we throw square paintings with velcro back and we earn points on how high on a painting it sticks as we threw them. The cosmo room is the most psychedelic. The lights almost hypnotic with music lending an aural mood. It was a nice few minutes to lull and relax.
Visiting the House of Mirrors
The tour around the Mirror House lasted for two hours and ended at the souvenir shop. It was a fascinating venture into the world of the Qattans. The Mirror House is like an art oasis, a symbol of free expression and creativity, in contrast to the rather stringent and uptight world of Kuwait. Now it is considered an important museum in the city. A worthy escape even for a few hours.
The Mirror House
Qadisiya block 9, street 94, house 17
+965-50747677 (WhatsApp ONLY!)
Email: [email protected]
Adults: KD 4
Kids: KD 2
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.