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Tashakeel: A haven of handmade jewellery

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 23.06.2007:

By Shadi Abu Ayyash and Sammy Kirreh

Flanked by two of her assistants, Hiam Rohana sits in her store, bent-double, working diligently on a glass-bead necklace. Her humble store in Ramallah, Tashakeel [formations], displays an exquisite colourful assortment of handmade glass-bead necklaces.

Hiam founded the store just before the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. In spite of the unstable political and economic situation, and onerous conditions she had to contend with, Hiam believed her endeavor would be successful. She stated, “I took the first step and it was right. I found my way to success.”

At the beginning when Hiam started her store, she was met with much criticism. “Some of my friends told me I was insane and unrealistic because people here do not appreciate works of art,” she said. Nevertheless, Hiam persevered, full of determination to accomplish her goal and ambition.

She explained, “I do not have any business goals. My aim is to prove that individuals have the right to challenge the common prevailing presumptions and that they are capable of unique accomplishments. But we all need to have a strong will and unwavering determination.”

Characterized by an elevated sense of beauty and harmony, Hiam is critical of the “cheap products” that fill Ramallah stores. She believes the products are selected and displayed haphazardly. “Ramallah city should be a special and different place,” she said in a voice that vibrated with deep love and respect for the city of her residence.

Hiam is an artist of fine sensibilities. Even though she has a store where people can buy richly decorated and finely woven necklaces, her aim is not to become a businesswoman. Her art is a form of social and political resistance. She asserts, “I want to make Palestinians see that resistance has different forms and that they are capable of adopting new methods of resistance.” For Hiam what counts is the accomplishment, not profit.

When Hiam was nine she tried to fix her own jewels in a creative fashion. The habit grew with her and the making of jewellery became her favorite pastime. She explains, “I have always wanted to produce art objects with my hands. I collected raw material and fabricated shapes and forms. I like colours as much as I like to work with my hands.”

She adds, “What encouraged me to pick this hobby as a career was the admiration people have for my products.”

There are many art stores in the West Bank but very few are run by artists. Hiam runs Tashakeel and people come to her to pick gifts for friends and loved ones. “Different kinds of clients from different social levels come to Tashakeel to buy jewels. Most of them are women who love to wear original necklaces that no other women have worn before,” she says.

Hiam has a PhD in biology but opted to follow her own intuition and start a career as an artist. She puts together different raw materials to make an original product. “I am bold and I make new forms using different tools and colourful beads,” said Hiam.

Tashakeel offers to design and produce beaded necklaces upon the request of customers. Thus sometimes Hiam designs necklaces for special parties to match the dresses of women customers.

Even traditional necklaces are on demand, but Hiam does not produce them often. Inspired by the old traditions of the Palestinian culture, she creates new jewel necklaces for old and young, local and international clients who visit her store. The prices vary according to the quality of the necklace and the customers’ budget.

Hiam has been working in handmade jewellery for nine years and gradually she innovated new ways of designing and fabricating jewel necklaces made of beads, crystal, semi-precious stones and glass. Some of her products are exported abroad. Hiam founded Tashakeel in 2000, and the store has an Internet website


This Week in Palestine

May 2007

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