“Sometimes a dress is more than a dress”
My mother was injured a year and a half ago, when visiting family in Jordan. She was walking down a flight of stairs at my Aunt’s residence, when she accidentally skipped a step. With her feet twisted beneath her and sense of balance thrown — she fell onto her hip and hit her head against the stone wall. I thank God she only injured her hip, and was with her fleet of sibling doctors to assist and guide her recovery over the next many months.
It took a long time for my mother to be able to walk on her own again. She still feels uneasy walking down stairs and hills. The best thing that could have happened to us Americans, was for her injury to happen while in Jordan. Thank goodness for dual citizenship. Jordan’s healthcare system is high quality, low-cost, and they are quick to respond. Not like the American health care system. She received 24 hour care and assistance thanks to my Aunt Ward and Aunt Sanaa, who ensured she was treated like a queen.
My mother couldn’t travel back to the US on her own for over 6 months. Because I live on the east coast, it was one full year before I was able to see her. I have never been away from my mother for that long, and my life felt very incomplete without hearing her voice next to me or feeling her hugs. All I could think about was how my sadness being apart from her for so long could not compare to the longing she and my grandmother had to return to Palestine.
My sisters, my father and I all processed our angst about the situation in our own ways.
Per the usual, I had an existential semi-meltdown and total reevaluation of how I was engaging on Palestine as a Palestinian — in my work, personal life, and academically. I decided that I could not wait any longer to write the book her and I have been discussing since I was a young girl. Something inside of me ignited. Maybe it was fear. Or passion. Or a call-to-action.
Or maybe I was just worried that my mother would never have the peace of mind that her work over the last 50 years to preserve our culture made a difference. She has dedicated her life to teaching young Palestinian women in diaspora our traditional folk arts and crafts. She has done everything in her power to fight Zionist hopes that the old will die and the young will forget about Palestine.
I started writing again.
I restarted this website.
I began researching again.
I created a realistic project budget and plan.
I began applying to grants.
I started reviewing designs.
I did some research.
I realized that I can either keep this project in idle status and pretend I can do this on my own — or I can ask for help from my friends and family. The response has been astoundingly supportive.
Do you want to help?
If you want to be a part of this book project, you can share your support to our Indiegogo fundraising campaign. A donation of even just $5 increases the number of supporters we have for the book, and we can share larger numbers of community support for the book in our grant applications.
If you donate $50, you will receive a free download of the eBook in January, 2017. Indiegogo Campaign: Preserving Palestinian Folk Art History & Meanings
We have reached our minimum fundraising goal, however it is possible and likely that our grants will not fully fund our requests. Every additional dollar raised will go towards budget deficits. We receive notification of our grant status in December, 2015.
If you don’t want to donate any money, you can still support this project by simply sharing our campaign with your artist friends.
How can I learn more about Palestinian embroidery?
Listen to my mother’s lectures. That is all you need to do.
- 2015: Oregon Folklife Network Interview
- 2013: Institute of Palestine Studies: Preserving the Historical Record, Embroidery Traditions of Palestinian Women
- 2009: World Affairs Council, Teach the Middle East
Why is this project important?
Storytelling is an intimate experience in most cultures, and in Palestinian women’s circles it is done through a familial mentorship over a lifetime. I learned stories, meanings and history of each traditional embroidery design through dialogue in craft circles with my mother and grandmother. As generations of Palestinian women grow in diaspora, and the 1948 refugee community is becoming smaller as time passes, our stories risk being coded, silently, in our needle and thread. Publishing the meanings of traditional designs that appear on Palestinian women’s garments, I’m giving voice to my matriarchal ancestors, documenting oral history, as well as preserving the sacred tradition of storytelling.
What is our intended outcome?
Our intended outcome is to ensure that this endangered art continues to thrive in Palestinian diaspora. Storytelling fosters understanding between generations and tribes. It’s also valuable to provide resources for Palestinians in diaspora that seek deeper understanding of their cultural identity, ancestors and the folk arts.