For people under occupation as well as in exile, one of the most important tasks is to pass their tradition and culture on to the next generations, to make sure it is not forgotten and stay alive! It is the heartbeat, the identity a people under occupation is never allowed to lose, the pride the women always did and will pass on!
Palestinian culture was severely disrupted by the establishment of the state if Israel in the northern, western as well as parts of southern parts of Palestine in 1948. As a result of these hostilities, over half the rural population became refugees, significantly increasing the number in 1967, after the six-day war.

Many years back women in refugee camps picked up this task and are doing a fantastic job passing on the beauty of the culture. I want to show a number of examples of the marvellous handicrafts which express the soul of the people … pass on their identity to future generations!

Embroidery projects set up to assist Palestinian refugee women with income, as well as to maintain and promote traditional Palestinian culture, appeared as early as the 1950s. Most, however, were established in the mid 1980s, when the need for such projects was finally recognized by the international aid community. While some of these projects are still tied to foreign organizations, many are now managing on their own and are especially in need of international markets for their products.

Originally the most common item produced by the projects was the embroidered square cushion which came in two sizes (small and large or “jumbo” – a floor cushion) covered with traditional Palestinian designs in multicoloured cross stitch. Other early products included household items such as oven gloves, tea towels, hand towels, table runners, coasters with a mixture of traditional designs and modern Christian motifs (Nativity scenes, stars and crosses etc) as many of the earliest embroidery projects received their funding from Christian aid agencies.

Traditional thobs were adapted for the western market into the shawal and “6 branch” styles, with 3/4 straight sleeves, bust darts, waists etc and the embroidery moved into non traditional areas, and the shawl was revived originally to accompany the shawal but now as an embroidered garment in it’s own right.

Here are some beautiful examples ….


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