Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Embroidered keepsakes

My dear friend "The Lady of the Links" and I were recently discussing how few Palestinians engage in media work to help educate the West. Yes there are some brilliant stars who still dare speak out here and there ..
But really most people I know and respect are what I would call Palestine Underground. Simply nice people who go about the business of living the best they can, mainly focused on their families. Wise and well educated people who have found it is safer and saner to support Palestine in more subtle personal ways- mainly keeping alive recipes and memories- and laughter, and with ever growing families passing on respect for the family, as well as for all of historic Palestine.

As my dear friend "The Lady of the Links" just wrote me: Viva Palestine underground!

In our garden here in Pennsylvania, our bulbs are bursting forth everywhere, pushing old leaves aside. Life goes on and winter ends as new growth fills our garden with the promise of bloom.... Viva Palestine underground !!!

Early Christians who were harshly persecuted for their religion has secret symbols to tell each other where a meeting might be:

We who know and love Palestine might not be stepping out in high profile ways such as on protest marches, or signing our names to petitions, but in countless living rooms and family rooms and bedrooms we have embroidered pillows and wall hangings large and small all remembering and honoring Palestine. In our closets we have treasures from the past, as well as more modern versions. Colorful cross stitch in many colors carefully chosen to blend and contrast... The same patterns that adorn traditional Palestinian dresses.

Overview of Palestinian Embroidery

Only one kind of stitch is used in making Palestinian embroidered dresses, but the patterns and colors used for these dresses vary. The color combinations of the embroidery, the design and the color of the cloth on which the embroidery is made have specific connotations as to the specific region in Palestine, where the article was made or the status of the person owning or wearing the article. (In the case of women’s dresses, called Thobes, the status may be a new bride, an older mother, a pregnant wife, etc.) Also, one can determine where a Palestinian woman comes from through the patterns of the embroidery on her dress; almost each Palestinian town has its own unique pattern. Palestinian embroidery is therefore more than just an art or a craft; it is an integral part of the Palestinian geographical and cultural landscape...[more]

Palestinian Traditional Costumes Map
Copyright © 2004 Palestinian Heritage Center. All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004 Palestinian Heritage Center. All rights reserved

Palestinian women dressed in Palestinian traditional dresses, are witnesses to the architectural greatness implied in the palace of Suleiman Jasser, which was built in 1914.
Copyright © 2004 Palestinian Heritage Center. All rights reserved

In our pocketbooks and purses many of use have small embroidered keepsakes tucked in like buried treasure, a private secret. No need to advertise, although if asked we might explain. But we don't have to.

And so in growing a private, personal garden for Palestine, today in watching the bulbs shoot up here there and every where with a vigorous green reach- hints of what will be soon enough enshallah... perhaps one can think about traditional embroideries and costumes, many patterns that are based on natural themes and colors celebrating beauty, celebrating life, celebrating flowers and growth- and goodness... and peace... If you don't already have an embroidered keepsake, find one. Try to buy from Palestine- for Palestine.

Or teach yourself HOW TO CROSS-STITCH

The dresses (thobes) appearing in this web site are modern replicas of traditional Palestinian designs. They were obtained, and can still be purchased, from various Palestinian embroidery centers throughout the Middle East especially from Palestinian refugee camps. They are also available from the various town markets in Palestinian cities. One such prominent embroidery center which has a variety of pieces and which we visited frequently is run by the Society of In'ash El-Usra located in el-Bireh. The designs on these dresses are uniquely Palestinian and represent Palestinian identity, although they evolved over the years with influences from outsiders as well as transients through the area. These are only a small and incomplete sample of the range of designs that exist or what is available on the market.

The embroidery on Palestinian dresses is always structured in a specific way, and when new patterns are introduced, they are ingeniously incorporated into this structure. The embroidery is arranged on a chest panel, on the sleeves, on the sides of the skirt, and in a rectangular panel above the hem at the back of the dress. The chest panel is usually rectangular, although in the Gaza- district it is V-shaped. In some areas, such as the Jaffa area and in Hebron Hills, the embroidery on the skirt is heavy and solid, and in others, such as Ramallah area north of Jerusalem, it is often lighter. The dress back panel is always rectangular. However, it varies in size according to region and period. While each region of Palestinian has its distinct pattern and design, modern Palestinian embroidery has mixed various designs and patterns from more than one region.

"Thobe" of Beit Dajan (Jaffa district)

Beit Dajan "thobe" is rich in embroidery; its main color is red touched with lilac and green. It has "manajel" on the sides. It is usually worn with a belt.

"Thobe" of Beer Sheba District

Beer Sheba "thobe" is covered with embroidery (heavily embroidered). The color is usually red and it has "manajel" on the sides. "Saya" material is used on the shoulders. It is usually worn with a belt.

"Thobe" from Gaza District

Gaza "thobe" differs a little from other thobes. It has a pointed chest panel. No belt is worn with it.

"Thobe" of Salameh (Jaffa District)

Salameh "thobe" has heavy embroidery on the front, sides and back. The embroidery in front has a square chest panel. The colors are green, lilac and red. It is usually worn with a belt.


The Art of Palestinian Embroidery
by Laila El-Khalidi

Book Description
The Palestinian folk arts have a rich and fascinating history. Silk thread and embroidery, together with an expanding repertoire of symbols, are known to have made their way from China to the Holy Land along the Silk and Spice Routes before being introduced to Europe by Christian saints, holy men and pilgrims. Mainly using cross-stitch, Palestinians have continued to embroider their traditional motifs, giving them their own appellations and developing their own terminology. As clothing was of prime importance, Palestinian women wanted something personal, distinctive and handmade. By adopting the traditional styles and motifs of her area, a woman expressed her wish to identify and be identified with her cultural roots. Samples of late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century Palestinian costumes are considered to be representative of folk art at its best.

Through the vicissitudes of war and occupation, Palestinian folk materials have been dispersed, though samples are to be found in published material, in museums outside Palestine and in small private collections. Leila El Khalidi's work in identifying and recording the history and motifs in Palestinian embroidery will be of interest both to craftspeople and to students of folk traditions and is an important step in preserving the Palestinian heritage. The book is illustrated with a detailed appendix showing the principal motifs and with photographs of traditional costumes.


And in imagining a public Garden for Palestine, I'd have gifts from Palestine in our gift shop, including embroidered keepsakes that can be kept inconspicuously tucked away in a pocket as a precious secret... a hidden strength like a magic talisman...
Viva Palestina underground!

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