The Treasure behind a Stitch

post 104/365


Soul searching for one’s identity and heritage comes in different ways. Clothing expresses aspects of identity in all societies. In Palestine before the middle of the twentieth century, women in each local region created garments with distinctive types of embroidery and decoration that immediately established the wearer’s origin. To those who knew the regional variations in style, patterns, and colors of embroidery, a quick look at a dress was enough to determine the wearer’s region and even village.

Inaash, which in Arabic means revival, was founded in the late 1960s by a group of Lebanese and Palestinian women who foresaw the need to preserve the rich heritage of Palestinian embroidery, and simultaneously provide financial support for destitute refugee families in camps in Lebanon. It is an important source of income for women in the refugee camps who work mostly at home. This project was set up to empower Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon as well as maintaining and promoting traditional Palestinian culture.

The first embroidery workshop opened in Shatila Camp in 1968; followed by a second, with a kindergarten and dispensary, in 1974. Since that time almost 10,000 women have been trained, producing close to three million pieces of handiwork and generating over 5 million dollars.

Palestinian women who came of age in the refugee camps in Lebanon were not trained like their mothers with the art of their embroidery. Since it was founded, Inaash has taught over 8,000 women the art of Palestinian embroidery and traditional needlework with about 350 embroiderers working for them at the moment.

By achieving a delicate balance between traditional and modern, their products have not only helped conserve an iconic craft, they have also sustained many families over decades. These products include dresses, jackets, scarves, bags, cushions and soft household furnishings.

Scrupulously maintaining the integrity of the original patterns and stitching, the Inaash Art Committee fuses ancestral Palestinian motifs drawn from traditional rural patterns, with innovative Lebanese and Palestinian creativity, ensuring the continuity of Palestinian craftsmanship for years to come. They have worked with Lebanese designers like Rabih Keyrouz, Milia M, and Rayya Morcos.

Embroidery is these women’s means of communication. The way of proving their existence as they float in a vicious cycle built from the misfortune of their past. Among the turmoil and tragedy of present Palestinian existence, the beauty of Palestinian embroidery is like a ray of light and pride. Thread-by-thread, hand-stitched, with a beautiful array of colors, they are objects of such tangible beauty yet created under awful conditions in the camps. These embroideries are like storybooks that tell tales of a forgotten land, of lost people, of home and belonging, of pride in one’s heritage. Stitch by stitch with their little needle; those women safeguard a treasure from their land and its people, stitching their stories of hope and reminiscence into each piece, creating a visual story of a land they once belonged to.

A beautiful little clip:

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