Making and sharing traditional needlework, stitching patterns belonging to villages that no longer exist, local Palestinian women artfully sustain heritage and community through the beauty of tatreez. Nehad Khader curated this exhibition about the meanings of this art, based on her original research, documenting needlework traditions currently practiced by six women of different generations.
Tatreez, Palestinian needlework, has been an important and vital folk art for centuries. WIth the support of a grant from the Leeway Foundation, Nehad Khader began to explore the histories and arts of the Palestinian community here in Philadelphia, and the place of tatreez here. She saw her work as especially important for her generation of 20-year-olds and for those even younger - Palestinian youth growing up here who may know little about the history or significance of the heritage and artistry of their mothers and grandmothers. And she saw it as a way to publicly share some of the experiences, skills and arts of the Palestinian community in a post-911 era of heightened anti-Middle Eastern sentiment.
Working with photographer Sarah Green, Khader began to seek out and document the embroidery traditions of local Palestinian women who came to Philadelphia after the Nakba, in 1948, and again after 1967. The needlework patterns that women use for domestic decorations and clothing were originally from their home villages, but since the occupation and refugee camp experience, these traditions have mingled and mixed. The embroidery remains a trace of home villages, even as those homes are destroyed, inaccessible or gone. Making homes in Philadelphia and building a community here, women still exchange needlework. Embroidered work is part of a wedding trousseau and makes a Palestinian home look Palestinian. Khader says, "I believe that these arts are important and that the stories of the women who have continued to make them over 60 years are also important."
The Folklore Project is privileged to present "Tatreez: Palestinian Women's Embroidery in Philadelphia," as the first in a new series of Community Folklife Documentation exhibitions at PFP curated by community members.
Tatreez re-opens to the public with a season opening celebration on October 9, 2009, from 6 - 8 PM at the Folklore Project, 735 S. 50th Street in West Philadelphia. The show will also be open for viewing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM - 6 PM. The show will run through December 2009. Admission is free and all are welcome.
PFP's Community Folklife Documentation Project is supported by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, through the Heritage Philadelphia Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and with the assistance of the Leeway Foundation).
PNC Arts Alive also supports the Home Place project.
The Philadelphia Folklore Project is a 22-year-old public interest folklife organization committed to sustaining the alternative and progressive folk and traditional arts of our communities. For more information visit our website: www.folkloreproject.org or call 215.726.1106.
Photo credits: Alia Shiekh-Yousef with some of her needlework; Details of work; Maisaloon Dias, Wafai Dias, Nehad Khader, and Alia Shiekh-Yousef with work; Details of work. Photos: Sarah Green.