Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
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 of Pride
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 embroidered dresses 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 experiences.
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
The fascinating 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 Caldwell, NJ.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Threads of Pride: Palestinian Traditional Costumes
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.
Your 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 audience.
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 Association
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 following the reception, Hanan Munayyer discussed the history of 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.
At the 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 said.
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 hometown.
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 People.
Traditional Palestinian Dress Collection
July 11 2007
HANAN AND FARAH MUNAYYER
“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 proud.
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 your work.
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: