Wafa Ghnaim is an American born Palestinian businesswoman, writer and artist. Her father’s side of the family is from Yaffa, Palestine, though they now reside in Amman, Jordan. Her mother was born in Safad, Palestine, twice displaced — first, to Damascus, Syria and then to Amman, Jordan. Wafa and her two sisters began learning Palestinian embroidery from their mother when they were each about 4 years old.
Throughout her life, Wafa has traveled alongside her mother for various exhibitions, lectures and demonstrations around the U.S. from folklore festivals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to elementary schools in southeast Portland, Oregon. She assisted her mother by preparing materials for the lectures, demonstrating the craft of embroidery to passersby, and curating the exhibits. Wafa was awarded a two-year apprenticeship opportunity through the Oregon Folklife Network and the University of Oregon in 1993 through 1995 with her older sister, Fida. Throughout the apprenticeship, they assisted their mother in the completion of a Palestinian dress titled “The Gardens”, which was displayed in the Oregon State Capitol as “the dress of a million stitches”. Wafa also completed her own embroidered mural of the design “The Story of Cleopatra”.
Wafa has traveled to Syria and Jordan many times throughout her life for personal, professional and academic pursuits, witnessing major events that have rippled throughout the region; from the 2003 invasion of Iraq to various Israeli invasions and wars against Palestinians in the occupied territories to the Arab Uprisings. The last time she visited Damascus was February 11, 2011, the day that former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, resigned amidst popular unrest. That day was arguably the first day of the Syrian revolution and subsequent war. These experiences were very influential in her life, sparking her aspirations to preserve the oral history, storytelling, and folk art of Palestine.
Wafa decided to pursue her and her mother’s lifelong dream of writing a book about Palestinian embroidery designs and traditions in 2015. The book project has been a dream of her mothers since the early 1980’s when she first came to the United States. With funding from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, Regional Arts & Culture Council and the Brooklyn Arts Council, the book is set to be published by the end of 2016. Its launch will coincide with a three-part reading series sharing motifs and stories from the book at the Ledding Library of Milwaukie (Milwaukie, Oregon) and a venue to be determined in New York City.
Wafa and her husband currently reside in Brooklyn, New York.