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Handicrafts & Artifacts

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Showing 21 - 40 from 65 entries

> The Palestinian Scarf ... Fashion Statement or Symbol?
> Designing Palestinian Handicrafts
> Palestinian Design in the Context of Furniture...
> Armenian Pottery and the Karakashians
> Blue rough cotton woman's shirt with pointed sleeves.
> The Emergence of Trade in the City of Hebron
> Magic and Talismans
> Palestinian handicrafts
> Bethlehem handicrafts
> Traditional Palestinian dress
> The Storage Jar (Al-Khabiya)
> Tashakeel: A haven of handmade jewellery
> The Stone Tradition in Palestine
> Fashion under Adversity
> Taybeh Beer
> Embroidery and Beyond Cultural heritage provides a...
> Mother of Pearl A Traditional Palestinian Craft
> Palestinian invents queuing socks
> Nablous soap
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Embroidery and Beyond Cultural heritage provides a means for a dignified life
   
submitted by This Week In Palestine
04.05.2007

By Shirabe Yamada

A morning at Surif Women’s Cooperative starts early in the pristine village nestled in the Hebron hills. In the sunlit workshop, Najah and Halimeh, veteran seamstresses, spread open a roll of fabric in preparation for production. A group of village women enter with embroidered pieces that they worked on at home, exchanging greetings and friendly chatter. Najah gets up from her sewing machine, inspects the embroidery, and calculates payments for the women. A boy walks in and, minutes later, is sent home with pieces of fabric and colourful threads as he memorizes the instructions from Halimeh: “Tell your mother to do the same design, three of them this time.” The cooperative, which enlists about 400 women and is among the oldest of its kind in Palestine, was established in 1950 by the Mennonite volunteers in order to respond to the economic needs of the newly created refugee population.

Today, tens of organizations like the one in Surif village provide a vital source of livelihood for families across Palestine. An increasing number of women are becoming the sole breadwinners for their families, as unemployment among men continues to soar and the economic situation continues to worsen. In villages and refugee camps, women utilize traditional artisan skills for handicraft production, which brings in the crucial income to buy food, medicine, and other essentials for the family. Fair trade organizations, such as Jerusalem-based Sunbula, support their efforts by providing market access for their products and assisting them in improving production.

Situated at a crossroads of cultures and on ancient trade routes, Palestine offers a rich heritage of artisanship that has developed throughout its millennia-long history. While the characteristic cross-stitch embroidery may be the dominant image of local handicrafts, other popularly produced handicrafts include weaving of various types, woodcarving, ceramics, and soap-making, just to name a few. Here is a glimpse into the world of Palestinian artisans.



Cross-stitch Embroidery (“Tatreez”)
Almost synonymous with Palestinian handicraft is cross-stitch embroidery, a trade that has been practised and cherished by generations of women. In traditional households before 1948, a young girl would start embroidering her wedding dress as soon as she could hold a needle. Each dress was intricately embroidered with vividly coloured silk or cotton threads, creating beautiful patterns from the natural environment, such as flowers, trees, and animals. Some dresses were covered with dense geometric patterns or featured mythological symbols such as the “Canaanite’s Star” and “Stairs to Heaven.” An embroidered dress showed off the woman’s skills and was a canvas for her creativity and artistic imagination.

Palestinian women today take special pride in the art of embroidery. Embroidering is not only a link to the Palestine of the past, but also a celebration of their treasured heritage. Although a young woman these days does not hand-embroider her wedding dress, the folkloric cross-stitch continues to thrive and is incorporated into modern-day items such as shawls, bags, table linens, and wall-hangings. The Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union, the Melkite Pastoral Center (Ramallah), the Idna Ladies’ Association (Hebron), and the UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Project (Gaza) are among the organizations that strive to provide a wage-earning opportunity for women through the production of embroidered handicrafts.



Couching-stitch Embroidery (“Tahriri”)
Couching is a trademark of Bethlehem embroidery. It has a very distinct look that is dominated by circular patterns made with gold and silver cords, each filled with silk threads of bright colours. Traditional costumes embroidered with the couching were referred to as “malak” or royal dress, due to their exclusivity and elaborate style. Today, only a handful of skilled artisans of this technique remain in the Bethlehem area. The Women’s Child Care Society in Beit Jala has successfully kept this art from vanishing, as it produces gorgeously embroidered cushion covers, evening bags, and table runners.



Majdalawi Weaving
Prior to the 1948 Nakba, Palestine had several textile-producing centres, one of which was Majdal, today the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Its legendary fabric was Majdalawi, the indigo-died cotton with striking fuchsia or turquoise stripes interwoven with silk threads. It was the signature material for a woman’s dress in the southern coastal area. This once-dying art is sustained by Atfaluna Crafts, a project that aims to economically empower adults with hearing disabilities in the Gaza Strip. Majdalawi of the 21st century is stylishly used for products by Atfaluna, such as business-card holders, eyeglass cases, and placemats.



Weaving
Prior to the 1948 Nakba, Palestine had several textile-producing centres, one of which was Majdal, today the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Its legendary fabric was Majdalawi, the indigo-died cotton with striking fuchsia or turquoise stripes interwoven with silk threads. It was the signature material for a woman’s dress in the southern coastal area. This once-dying art is sustained by Atfaluna Crafts, a project that aims to economically empower adults with hearing disabilities in the Gaza Strip. Majdalawi of the 21st century is stylishly used for products by Atfaluna, such as business-card holders, eyeglass cases, and placemats.



Bedouin Weaving
The arid area that stretches from the Negev in the south of Palestine to the Sinai Peninsula has long been inhabited by the Bedouins, who have their own unique culture and lifestyle that enable them to survive in the harsh desert environment. Weaving was traditionally a woman’s work - making tents, rugs, camel bags, grain sacks, and other household items from sheep wool. Today, the life of the Negev Bedouins has been radically transformed and their traditions threatened with extinction as they are forced to abandon the nomadic life and settle in designated encampments. An Arab minority in the Jewish state, the community suffers from rampant poverty and various social problems. The Negev Bedouin Weaving Project was born out of this context. While striving to preserve Bedouin heritage, it provides a wage-earning opportunity for 120 women through rug production. The entire process - spinning of fleece, dying, and weaving, as well as administration and finance - is run by women who, compelled by their dire economic situation, have chosen to break away from time-bound customs of staying within one’s own home. Their products - floor rugs, tapestries, and cushions - successfully blend the traditional designs into contemporary use and are known for the durability that lasts a lifetime.



Olive Oil Soap
Olives are the symbol of Palestine, and the abundant use of its oil - in food, as a healing remedy, and for hair and skin care - is an integral part of local culture. Many Palestinian families still have family members who are soap-making experts, transforming the oil from previous years into a silky moisturizing soap when the freshly-pressed oil from new olives arrives in the family kitchen. A group of women from Dheisheh refugee camp have turned the art of soap-making into an entrepreneur project: the Aseela Women’s Cooperative. Aseela’s women take pride in their product, Pure Olive Oil Soap, made only with top-quality oil from local farmers and through the traditional ‘cooking method.’ Although the group was only recently established in 2005, their soap has already gained faithful fans in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Sindyanna of Galilee, a fair trade organization that benefits the Palestinian minority inside Israel, is also a successful exporter of local olive oil soaps.



Ceramics
Although ceramic work has been an integral part of this ancient land since the Neolithic period, the art of pottery-making was popularized by the Armenian potters in Jerusalem at the turn of the century. Among the most successful potters today is Atfaluna Crafts in Gaza City, where an impressive income-generating operation is run by talented young people, all of whom have hearing disabilities. Atfaluna offers a wide array of kitchenware and decorative items that are all hand-painted with exquisite arabesque patterns, sceneries of Palestinian villages and deserts, or adorable olive motifs. The impressive quality and stunning design of the crafts are a testament to the vision and dedication of Atfaluna, which has encouraged the talents and creativity of people who have long been stigmatized and neglected.



Olivewood Carving
Bethlehem is famed for olivewood carving, which dates as far back as the 16th century, when travellers’ accounts described the beauty of olivewood rosaries and crucifixes that were popular among pilgrims. Woodcarving is traditionally a family trade, where techniques and designs are passed down through generations. Today, groups such as the Gloria Cooperative and the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative represent these artisan families, who have been hit hard by the slump of tourism in Bethlehem and the physical confinement of the biblical city by the Separation Wall. Traditional religious items, and their contemporary counterparts such as home decor and jewellery, continue to be loved by tourists and pilgrims.



Paper Crafts
The Oasis, a small workshop located in a beautiful olive grove in the town of Beit Sahour, provides an opportunity for adults with mental disabilities to work meaningfully and productively. More than 20 people from cities, villages, and refugee camps in the area produce recycled paper products, including greeting cards, bags, journals, and bookmarks. Products are embellished with coloured sand and dried flowers from the hills of Palestine and depict natural landscapes and Biblical scenes from the Holy Land.



Doll-making
A group of young women from Jalazone Refugee Camp have been making unique doll products with never-fading popularity: the Nativity scene and the three wise men adorned with traditional Palestinian costumes. Run by the YWCA of Palestine, the project in Jalazone aims to provide a means for young women, who come from especially challenging circumstances, to gain economic independence. The group aspires to create a line of new products this year, such as a series of finger puppets and quilted baby blankets made with traditional techniques and designs.

The vibrant handicraft culture in Palestine is an expression of the resilience and will of a nation that, against all odds, proudly keeps alive its heritage and identity.



Sunbula empowers Palestinian artisans through the promotion of traditional handicrafts. The products mentioned in this article are available at Sunbula Craft Shop in Jerusalem (inside St. Andrew’s Guesthouse). Hours: 10 a.m. -- 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tel: 672-1707. Visit Sunbula’s Online Craft Market at www.sunbula.org.



Shirabe Yamada is the executive director of Sunbula. She can be reached at shirabe@sunbula.org.


Source:
This Week in Palestine
May 2007

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