Labour of Love: New Approaches to Palestinian Embroidery

  • through August 25, 2018
  • The Palestinian Museum, Birzeit, Palestine
This exhibition unfolds a material history of Palestine, telling little-heard stories through the intimate catalyst of clothing. Among the themes are "Intifada dresses" that combine traditional motifs with rifles, maps and political slogans, stitched by women in protest and solidarity during the First Intifada (1987–1991), rendering women's bodies as active sites of political resistance, an  implicit challenge to popular images of women as anonymous carriers of heritage. Also shown are examples of a European-style shift dress, delicately embroidered on blue silk, which melded foreign fashion with traditional detail as early as 1921. From the 1970s, Polaroids from Lebanon show bouffanted women in pink embroidered jumpsuits, modeling the earliest designs of embroidery organizations. Though men are not perceived as embroiderers, the exhibition features objects and testimonies from men who embroidered while incarcerated as political prisoners, and their work mingles expressions of national pride with romantic love. At the heart of the exhibition is a forest of 80 historic dresses and accessories, drawn from every region of Palestine. Placed in conversation with archival photographs, posters, paintings, music and newly commissioned video, the exhibition amplifies female voices and histories, casting fresh light on paradigmatic cultural material.
Kayané Antreassian. Courtesy of the Palestinian Museum
Embroidered jellayeh coat from Galilee, from the collection of Birzeit University Museum.
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