Beads and bangles ...there is a wealth of wonder to discover in what awaits you at Dervish
The flip of a coin decided on the establishment of the enchanting shop called Dervish at 21 Dov Hoz Street, Tel Aviv. Tucked away on the ground floor of an old Bauhaus building, one could easily walk past it. But look carefully and you will find the sign that directs you to the welcoming open door that will introduce you to a splendid vision, well worth visiting. The place is reminiscent of the Middle Eastern legend of Aladdin where he found himself in a cave filled with wonders - including the magic lantern. The genie of this modern day treasure is the attractive and charming Doreen Mirvish Bahiri, who welcomed me warmly. She entranced me for the next hour with her stories of the adventures of the two Mirvish sisters and their travels to the four corners of the earth collecting and choosing and buying beautiful artifacts illustrating the interest and cultures of the places they visited.
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa Miriam and Doreen Mirvish were living in Safed in 1965, in a dream house surrounded by many beautiful items they had collected when a friend from South Africa suggested to the two skeptical ladies that they open a gallery. It was a novel idea and they flipped a coin to decide what to do - and so we have Dervish. The name itself is a play on the surname Mirvish but Dervishes are a legendary sect of Sunnis who performed whirling ecstatic dances in honor of life. It’s a most appropriate name for this unique shop, which soon outgrew Safed as the ladies collected local crafts, copper and pottery from remote villages abroad.
In 1969 Dervish moved to Tel Aviv and Miriam and Doreen started traveling extensively. Miriam had a British passport which allowed her access to the East to Bukhara, Persia, Afghanistan, Yemen and India. They divided the world in two and Doreen went West to Peru, Bolivia, Columbia and Equador. Nobody had seen the exotic treasures they brought back - it was all novel to Israel.
Traveling opened many doors and opportunities for the sisters, as well as introducing them to people who remained their friends throughout the years.
In 1969 Doreen started making jewelery. She worked in Israel and then later in India with a traditional silversmith, using a blowpipe and sitting on the floor holding the silver in her toes. Now when she goes to India she does business with the son of her original teacher. The work is today done with modern implements and somehow Doreen doesn’t find the same cultural finesse in the work as existed when working with the primitive facilities of years past.
In a corner of Dervish stands a well-worn work bench complete with all the necessary tools required to produce the magnificent pieces that Doreen designs and makes. She collects unique beads and charms on her travels – buying from India, Bali, Thailand, Nepal, Turkey, Africa, Zanzibar. She uses her artistic instinct to choose the beads and charms that are aesthetically the right ones for her work. Each piece tells a story and represents many hours of work and thousands of miles of traveling. The beads perhaps bought in Nepal – the central charm in Indonesia – all put together with Doreen’s keen artistic eye. The results of her labor are superb and breathtaking.
Nestled amongst colorful silk cloths I came across what looked like an elongated African hollow wooden doll, only to be introduced to a 'saringhi’ a musical instrument from Nepal, much like a guitar. The large area devoted to clothing is another treasure chest. Hand-woven jackets made to order in Turkey, a wonderful selection of fashion clothing from India for men and women – there is little that is not to be found on the shelves and in the cupboards, or on display - glassware, pottery, glassand iron ornaments, furniture, cushions, covers and woven wall hangings, colorful silk scarves and intriguing handbags. From floor to ceiling your eye wanders over amulets, artifacts and ethnic treasures.
Today Doreen travels with her husband Simcha. Miriam died some years ago but her legacy remains in the beautiful items she chose to buy and in the stories of their adventures together that Doreen regales with enthusiasm.
I will certainly be back often to wander through my imagination as I explore the treasures of this very special place and enjoy the vicarious journey to remote and far off places guided by the warm hospitality of its charming owner.
See the Dervish gallery website at www.dervishgallery.com