Arab American National Museum Hosting the Munayyer Collection
The Arab-American National Museum in
Dearborn, Michigan, is currently hosting the Munayyer Collection of Palestinian embroidered
costumes. The opening reception was held Thursday evening , July 12, and
was attended by over 120 museum members and their friends. In her presentation
following the reception, Hanan Munayyer
discussed the history of embroidery, art and crafts in the Middle East dating
back to 1500 B.C.
This is the latest of PHF activities that works to
educate both fellow Arab-Americans as well as the American public of the beauty
of Palestinian embroidery, motifs and symbols stitched on these stunning
garments. This collection is a true representation of now-vanished Palestinian
villages and the women that wrote Palestinian history with needle and thread.
Threads of Pride: Palestinian
Traditional Costumes curated by Hanan Karaman Munayyer opened to the public on July 12th, and will
remain open through November 25th, 2007. The exhibit includes
selections from the collections of Hanan and Farah Munayyer and the
Palestinian Heritage Foundation. Few of the items on display are on loan from
Mrs. Ethel Mendenhall and CPPH.
Dresses on display represent Bethlehem, villages around Jerusalem,
Hebron, Ramallah, and Jaffa regions, Gaza, Galilee, and the Southern and Coastal
regions. In addition to the dresses, other items such as veils, headpieces,
jackets and jewelry are also display.
This historic exhibition is the first of its kind in a Michigan museum and
comes almost one year after the successful three month exhibit at the Craft and
Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
Images from Threads of Pride at Arab American National Museum
for additional images go to Exhibits and click Threads
Click images to enlarge
Threads of Pride
Palestinian Traditional Costumes
The Arab American National Museum is proud to present Threads of
Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes featuring over 40 Palestinian
and ceremonial costumes. This exhibit reinforces the Museum's commitment to
provide our community and the public at large with high quality exhibits and
programming that are relevant to their cultural identity and artistic
In addition to its stunning beauty, this exhibit demonstrates the rich
cultural heritage of the Palestinian people. While the art of embroidery is
common to many cultures around the world, Palestinian embroidery is unique not
only for its intricate designs, but also for its cultural and social meaning.
Like other aspects of Palestinian life, the traditional art of embroidery has
been threatened by continued conflicts and wars. For hundred of years, this
tradition was practiced and consumed by peasant women in various Palestinian
villages; after 1948 it became a luxury available primarily to the wealthy.
Palestinian embroidery has also taken on a new meaning; it became a symbolic
expression of Palestinian sovereign identity. Threads of Pride: Palestinian
Traditional Costumes expresses the Palestinian struggle to sustain their
cultural heritage and national identity despite displacement and fragmentation
of their society.
With this exhibit, the Arab American National Museum pays tribute to the
many unknown Palestinian women whose labors of love and strong sense of beauty
produced these masterpieces. Our utmost appreciation and gratitude go to Farah
and Hanan Munayyer, founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation of West
Caldwell, New Jersey. Their endless devotion and commitment had contributed to
the understanding and appreciation of the people in the USA to the Palestinian
and Arab culture and history.
Finally we want to thank our community and members locally and nationally.
Your ongoing commitment and support have made it possible for us to continue
providing our audiences with quality exhibits and programs that reflect the rich
Arab and Arab American cultures and contributions.
Anan Ameri, Ph.D.
Arab American National Museum
Threads of Pride Opens
couple behind the Palestinian Heritage Foundation were on hand to open Threads
of Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes, an exhibition of
antique garments at the AANM. Hanan and Farah Munayyer greeted Museum Members at
a July 12 opening reception; Hanan Munayyer (left), a research scientist
by training, gave a lecture and slide show in the Lower Level Auditorium on the
historic tradition of Palestinian embroidery. Read more about the exhibition
below or visit www.palestineheritage.org. And don’t forget to visit the Museum
Store after viewing Threads of Pride, to purchase limited-edition items
featuring distinctive Palestinian embroidery.
Members-Only Lecture/Reception for Threads of Pride
You’re invited to a special members-only opening event for the AANM’s
latest exhibition – Threads of Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes.
These stunning embroidered garments are drawn from the collection of Hanan and
Farah Munayyer (right), founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in West
The Munayyers are the special guests at the opening reception, 6-8 p.m. on
Thursday, July 12. During the reception, they will conduct a guided tour and
lecture on the exhibition, which runs through November 25, 2007. RSVP by calling
313.624.0200 or emailing email@example.com.
Threads of Pride: Palestinian Traditional
July 12- November 25, 2007
Arab American National Museum
13624 Michigan Ave.
Dearborn, MI 48126
Have you looked in your closet
lately? What do your clothes say about you? About your
marital status? About where you live?
How much of what you wear was made by you or your family
members? Do your clothes reflect your own creative talent? Do
you embellish the surface of your clothing yourself?
We live in a consumer
culture that focuses its attention on mass-produced clothing and
accessories that carry “brand name” designer labels because we
aspire to fame by association. We even support the
counter-culture of “knockoffs” of Burberry, Gucci, Yves St.
Laurent, etc. thinking we are beating the designers at their own
game by purchasing these “copies” for a deep discount. What does
this say about us as individuals, as people?
Threads of Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes
speaks volumes about the pride taken in cultural identity as
demonstrated in the creative handwork of Palestinian women from
over a century ago. It also celebrates their ingenuity,
self-confidence, self-expression within traditional boundaries,
adaptability, and survival.
Walk into the exhibition gallery at the Arab American
National Museum and you will be stunned by the number of female
manikins dressed in traditional finery and grouped by region
along the walls. Additional dresses are placed on display mounts
adjacent to the groupings. Headscarves are mounted on the walls
behind the manikins. Separate panels provide close up views of
embroidery motifs that can be found in the clothing. Small
display cases contain accessories such as shoes and jewelry.
modern, untrained, and culturally jaundiced eyes will
automatically sweep across the scene taking in the colors of
fabric and thread in a kaleidoscopic blur. You will see the
similarity of texture from a distance and be tempted to dismiss
the work as looking all the same. Not surprisingly, however,
the vibrancy of the colors compared to your own quotidian
clothing will excite you and draw you in to pay closer attention
to the details, the differences, that define each of the seven
regions represented. In short, you will be amazed.
Gradually you will come to understand that
approximately 100 years ago, Palestinian women from Jerusalem,
Bethlehem, Jaffa, El Khalil (Hebron,) Ramallah, Majdal and Gaza
as well as the nomadic Bedouin of the southern desert region
developed their own embroidery designs borrowing from
architectural motifs, local plants, and spiritual symbols. A
vertical line of chevrons known as “tall palms” echoes the bark
of a palm tree. The eight-pointed star is a “moon” motif. The
bold S, sometimes reversed, is a “leech” symbolizing longevity.
The style of embroidered panels, types of fabrics, set them
apart from one another to such a degree that their region of
origin could be identified from a distance. Women in Jerusalem
used a couching stitch for curvilinear designs used to embellish
jackets. Bethlehem women became so skilled in their embroidery
that they were able to sell their work. Their chest panels,
densely embroidered with a pattern of five circles (flower
blossoms) forming a very stylized representation of the “tree of
life,”can be found on dresses from other towns.
Headdresses indicated whether women were married or
unmarried. An unmarried woman would have very few coins, if any,
on her headdress, whereas a married woman would display and
carry her wealth on her head.
Embroidery was used on everyday dresses as well as wedding
dresses and dresses for special occasions. Women were as
distinctive working in the fields as they were visiting their
husband’s family. These dresses were part of their identity.
Work done by their own hands demonstrated their skill and
imagination. As a dress wore out the embroidery panels might
be cut off and stitched onto another dress or made into a pillow
cover or if badly worn used as a hot pad. Work that took
thousands of hours to create was not thoughtlessly discarded.
With the industrialization of fashion, the same cannot be
said of women’s ready-to-wear clothing today. Likewise these
traditional dresses and embroidery patterns that were passed
down through families for centuries have been replaced by
westernized clothing styles. Thus this collection is not only of
stylistic but also of historical importance.
A booklet by Hanan Munayyer who together with her husband,
Farah, began collecting the Palestinian clothing in this
collection in 1987, provides historical background, as well as
information useful in identifying the distinct regional
patterns. Hanan has been researching the clothing and embroidery
patterns for 20 years by looking at examples in museum
collections, historical photographic collections, as well as
reading museum publications on textile history. In her lecture
on the evening of the opening of the exhibition, she traced the
style of clothing and hand-woven fabric with distinct patterns
to Canaanite times as portrayed on Egyptian tomb paintings. The
style of the A-shaped, long tunic/dress dates to the 2-4th c. C.
E. Cross-stitch embroidery using a strong, fine needle required
the same technology that gave rise to steel sword blades in the
9th c. C. E. Furthermore, Arabic dress influenced medieval
European fashion from heraldry to headwear to embroidery
patterns. The invention of the printing press disseminated these
patterns throughout Europe and subsequently to the Americas,
helping them return, modified, to Palestine with DMC embroidery
threads in the 19th century.
War in the Middle East has destroyed the cohesiveness of
many cultures, especially the Palestinians. Palestinian women
refugees have formed embroidery cooperatives in other countries
as a means of supporting themselves and their families. Using
traditional patterns, these modern embroiderers produce
contemporary items carrying ancient symbols of identity and
pride to Palestinians in the diaspora as well as to a wider
This small portion of the Munayyer collection will require
many visits to be appreciated fully. Looking at the colors and
fabrics used in making the long, loose-fitting, simple dresses
as well as looking at the stitches and motifs used in the
embroidered panels on the chest, sleeves and skirt will require
time and concentration. This is a visual feast, especially for
fiber enthusiasts of all cultures, so spread the word! It will
be on view until November 25, 2007.
Illustrations courtesy of the Arab
American National Museum: Devon Akmon, photographer.
Dolores S. Slowinski, member, Michigan Surface Design
The Washington Report on
Middle East Affairs
By Mai Hassan
"Threads of Pride" in Dearborn
One year after the tremendous success of "Sovereign Threads? hosted by the
Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, California, the exhibit "Threads of
Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes" has opened in the Main Floor Gallery of
the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI. The exhibit was dedicated on July 12, 2007 with a reception
attended by more than 120 museum members and their friends. In her presentation
reception, Hanan Munayyer discussed the
embroidery, art and crafts in the Middle East dating back to 1500 B.C. "Threads
of Pride" will be on view at the museum through Nov. 25, 2007.
This stunning and one-of-a-kind exhibition demonstrates the rich cultural
heritage of the Palestinian people. These dresses and the embroidered stitched
motifs are all that remain from Palestinian villages whose populations were
ethnically cleansed during the war of 1948, and later systematically destroyed.
"Threads of Pride" features over 200 Palestinian artifacts, including more
than 30 antique embroidered dresses and ceremonial costumes, along with the
accompanying veils, jackets, headpieces and jewelry. Featured as part of the
collection of Hanan and Farah Munayyer, the costumes are hand embroidered with
silk thread on hand-woven fabrics. They represent all regions of historical
Palestine, including Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Al Khalil, Ramallah, Lydda-Ramleh,
Jaffa, Gaza and Majdal, and Galilee. Dating back to the 1860’s through the
1940’s, the dresses were selected for their beauty and rarity.
The exhibition includes contemporary embroidery in the form of pillows, wall
hangings and runners inspired by 19th and 20th century costumes.
These modern items were reproduced by Palestinian refugee women of the Middle
East where the Palestinians sought refuge after the catastrophic event known as
al Naqba. These pieces work to weave together Arab history and culture through
the highest caliber of workmanship.
"Threads of Pride" is a symbolic expression of Palestinian identity -
specifically the identity of village women who toiled endlessly to create such
masterpieces and wrote this part of their history with a needle and thread. This
embroidered “script” containing ancient symbols is the language by which
Palestinian culture is being introduced to the rest of the world.
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation, co-founded by the Munayyers of West
Caldwell, NJ, recently celebrated its 20th Anniversary at a banquet held in
Teaneck, NJ. (see July 2007 Washington Report, p. 38).
During the past few years, the Munayyer Collection has been traveling
across the United States and has been exhibited in the Washington National
Cathedral, the Mingei Museum of Folk Art in San Diego, CA, the Fuller Museum in
Brockton, MA, and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
invitation of the United Nations, the Foundation will set up a display in
commemoration of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People celebrated by
the U.N. on Nov. 29. For more information visit: <www.palestineheritage.org/threads%20of%Pride.htm>.
Traditional costumes on display at museum
By Mary Pritchard , Heritage Newspapers
History, tradition and elegance are woven into every garment showcased in
the latest exhibit now on display at the Arab American National Museum.
The latest addition to the first museum devoted to Arab American history
and culture, the "Threads of Pride" exhibit showcases traditional Palestinian
costumes. Forty embroidered dresses and ceremonial costumes demonstrate the
strikingly intricate patterns unique to the Palestinian culture as well as the
cultural and social meanings associated with each design.
The costumes on exhibit at the AANM are a part of the traveling collection
of Hanan and Farah Munayyer, founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation of
West Caldwell, N. J. They created this foundation to sustain the integral aspects of the
Palestinian cultural heritage and identity often lost in a disjointed society.
Each region in Palestine is represented with a complete outfit, the styles
representing the tradition of that particular area. Jaffa, for example, emphasizes intricate embroidery, while El-Kalil is
known for silver coin headdresses. The Bedouin Naqab Desert region has a
distinct melding of features, as the land was used as a meeting place that
resulted in a blending of styles and cultures.
The differences in regional dress remain an identifying feature for the
natives of Palestine. "Any time I see one of these dresses, in a split second I can tell you
where it originates from — this is a very old concept of identification," Hanan
Munayyer went on to explain that fashion differs from the constant trends
that infiltrate American culture. Traditional Palestinian garments are worn
daily —switching to a different style or pattern would be betraying your
One of the challenges in compiling an exhibit such as "Threads of Pride"
is learning to piece the outfits together, stated the New Jersey couple. Because
the separate components of each ensemble were often acquired individually,
extensive research on how to coordinate the appropriate aspects together to form
one cohesive outfit unique to each Palestinian area was necessary.
"We found the best resource to be National Geographic, actually. We looked
up pictures of native Palestinians from back in the 1900s and used them as
guides," Munayyer said.
Although the outfits on display seem quite intricate and elaborate, this
style of dress was considered everyday wear, even when working outside in the
fields where people were used to tying the long ornate sleeves behind their
heads for convenience.
After learning about the proper ways of coordinating the garments, the
Munayyer duo had plenty of practice working with mannequin setup and the care
and handling of textiles.
Several permanent and traveling displays later, their collection continues
to grow and expand with support from their foundation and contributors.
"Threads of Pride" premiered on July 12 with a special opening ceremony
for AAMN members. A guided tour of the new gallery display followed a lecture by
the Munayyers in the museum's auditorium. "This exhibit isn't really about dresses, it's about history, and
culture." Munayyer said.
PHF Invited to Display at the United Nation
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation was invited to set up a display of
Palestinian art and crafts at the United Nation in New York during the second
part of November 2007 in celebration of The Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian
Traditional Palestinian Dress Collection
July 11 2007
HANAN AND FARAH MUNAYYER
Talk politics to Hanan Karaman Munayyer and she’ll tell you about fabrics;
especially, the rich tradition of Palestine craft and folk costumes which date
back hundreds of years.
“These costumes can be a unifying force—Palestinian and Israeli politics
will always be with us, and I think it overshadows the overwhelming beauty of
folk traditions in this part of the world.”
A molecular biologist by profession, Munayyer may at first seem an odd
advocate for Middle Eastern textiles, but a quick interview reveals that she was
able to utilize her research skills to collect and classify the dozens of
costumes, both male and female, that chronicle the marvelous skills of
Palestinian design. The exhibit, currently on display at the Arab American
National Museum in Dearborn, is divided into regions—Jerusalem, El Khalil,
Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jaffa/Lydda and Majdal/Gaza. Each region reveals strikingly
different patterns and weaving motifs, including the red and green ‘heaven and
hell’ pattern. These costumes were made of embroidered panels stitched onto the
thob, the basic female dress of Palestine. Many of them took more than a
year to complete.
Residents of New Jersey, but of Palestinian descent, both Hanan and
husband Farah, also a scientist, are founders of the Palestinian Heritage
Foundation of West Caldwell, New Jersey, and are stewards of this, the largest
collection of Palestinian embroidery in the United States. Currently on display
in the museum’s Main Floor Gallery, the show contains over forty embroidered
dresses and ceremonial costumes, and runs through November 25, 2007.
Letters to PHF............
I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibition,
unfortunately over the net. I think this offers a unique and eloquent argument
against those who propose the thesis of "people without a land for a land without
a people". Chrystyna and I send our love to both, you and
Hanan. God bless you.
Oussama and Chrystyna
Dear Farah and Hanan,
It appears you have added many new pieces to the collection. I really like
the way this exhibit is set up. It photographs very nicely. Congratulations.
Breath-taking. I wish we were there! You both should be very
Dear Farah and Hanan,
Thank you so much for this. Some of it is stunning , some so delicate but
altogether truly beautiful. Thanks again.
Dear Farah and Hanan,
What a stunning exhibition. I wish I were there to see it live but the
pictures speak a lot. Congratulations on a job well done, you do not seize to
amaze me. Yaateekom Alf Afieh.
Hi Farah and Hanan,
Greetings from St Petersburg! I am here for the summer. It is always good
to read of the work you are doing.
Very best regards to you both and best wishes for the continued success of
Dear Hanan and Farah,
You made me so happy and so proud! I was sure that one day you will
accomplish what you want and reach one of your dreams! I want to congratulate
you from the bottom of my heart and hope that one day we'll visit together
Palestine and Beirut.
Nidal Al Achkar
Hi Farah and Hanan,
It is a beautiful vibrant exhibit. I like the "intense" look in the Arab
male models & the naturalism in the females. Thanks for continuing to educate
the general public on a "forgotten" culture and returning to the Arab peoples
their own. Thanks for the follow up on the dresses.
All the best,
Farah and Hanan,
I was so happy to see that your collection is being displayed at the Arab
American National Museum in Michigan. I am hoping to get out there to see it
before the school year begins again. I just wanted to congratulate you both on
all your hard work and dedication in keeping our traditions alive. You are an
inspiration and make me very proud to be an Arab.
Be well and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Palestinian Costumes & Embroidery:
A Precious Legacy
A Video Review By Shira
For the video review by Shira click the link below: