Palestinian costumes, art and crafts
Antiochian Heritage Museum
in Bolivar, Pennsylvania.
Over 300 items from the Hanan and Farah
Munayyer and the Palestinian Heritage Foundation's collections are on display at
the Antiochian Heritage Museum in Bolivar. The garments include over 40 thobs,
along with shawls, jackets and headgear. Also on display are complete men's attire
including kumbaz of various Syrian silk fabric, shirwals, abayehs,
laffeh, and hattas.
Garden surrounding museum
The display represents all region of
Palestine including Jaffa, Lydda and Ramleh, Jerusalem and Bethlehem,
El Khalil, Ramallah, Gaza, Galilee in the north, and the Naqab Desert in the
Paintings by Jihan Tannous, Irena Karkabi and six rare original water
color paintings from 1930s, by Anna Rychter May are also
showcased in the exhibit.
Many of the items on display including
dresses, scarves, jackets, men's attire and Syrian brass lamps and utensils were originally purchased from the collection
of the late Dr. Rolla Foley.
The opening ceremony commenced on Saturday,
May 7, 2005 in the presence of many guests who came from as far as New Jersey,
Ohio, New York and Washington DC. The local media was sure not to miss this
opportunity. The program included a reception, a lecture, a tour of
the exhibit, a Gala Arabic Banquet and a Violin Concert by Hanna Khoury.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba,
Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America presided over
the ceremonies and gave the keynote address following the Gala Banquet.
The exhibition was made possible in part
through generous donations from the following:
Samih and Samira Darwazah, Jordan
Munther and Dalia Karaman, Ohio
Charles and Lina Abboud, MN
Ziad and Naila Asali, MD
Grace Austin, NJ
John and Nadia Joubran, NJ
Isam Salah and Betsy Haddad, NY
Issa and Josephina Abboud, NJ
Salim and Julie Abboud, NJ
Musa and Asma Ghannam, PA
Emanuel and Ikhlas Munayyer, NJ
Zuhair and Jean Suidan, CT
Michael and Maha Kabbash, NJ
Amin and Lina Amireh, NJ
Mousa and Ghada Mitwasi, NJ
Samir and Oranie Khoury, NJ
Samuel and Adele Munayyer, CA
Peter and Mary El Masri, NJ
Farah and Hanan Munayyer, NJ
St. Elias Fellowship, NJ
United Palestinian Appeal, DC
Palestinian Heritage Foundation, NJ
Americans for Middle East Understanding, NY
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation would
like to take this opportunity to thank all those whose generous donation made
this historic exhibition of Palestinian costumes at the Antiochian Heritage Museum a
success. Special thanks go to Deacon Glenn McIntyre whose help in setting up the
exhibit was essential and very much valued. Also, PHF would like to thank Fr.
Michael Massouh, Executive Director of the Learning Center at the Antiochian
Denise O'Neal of the Marketing Department and the team that helped in the preparations for the reception, Gala Banquet and the
overnight stay of all the guests.
"Threads of Tradition"
Exhibition of Palestinian Bridal and Folk Dress at Antiochian Village
By Denise O'Neal
Discover one of the
most beautiful elements of the Palestinian culture and heritage through a new
temporary exhibition, "Threads of Tradition," at the Antiochian Heritage Museum
at Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center. Represented are
hand-loomed, hand-embroidered fabrics that through tradition and toil by
families of women were formed into ceremonial dresses actually worn by Middle
Eastern brides at their weddings and then throughout their married life for
ceremonial occasions. The exhibition showcases regional ethnic folk costumes
that demonstrate the textiles and embroidery of eight Palestinian regions from
the Naqab Desert in the south and the Dead Sea in the east to Galilee in
"The exhibition illustrates more than
exquisite threads of silk, silver and gold. The intricate designs reflect the
bride's identity through regional symbolism in design, stitches and color," said
Hanan Karaman Munayyer, guest curator for the exhibition. "As people would
gather in market places or for local festivals, their regional dress would show
pride and loyalty to their region, also referred to as their
clan," she added. Hanan is president and co-founder of the Palestinian Heritage
Foundation (PHF) and since 1987 has personally developed the extensive
1,500-piece costume and textiles collection, the largest in the United States.
The costumes and accessories displayed span
approximately one hundred years, reflecting dress from the 1860's to 1940's. But
the origin of styles and form dates back to antiquity and Canaanite times of
1500 to 1200 BC. All dresses throughout the ages to 1940 were cut from natural
fabrics on a similar A-line shape with triangular sleeves, referred to by modern
archeologists as "Syrian Tunics." These "Tunics" were adorned with intricate
cross stitching in colorful silk threads with heavy embroidery on the chest, the
sleeves, and the skirt's center front, back and sides. They were accessorized
with a girdle (belt), which gathered the tunic to shape; a unique headdress (hat
or cap), which was decorated with a woman's personal wealth in coins received
from family, friends and her husband as wedding gifts; and finally an
elaborately embroidered and fringed veil (scarf or shawl).
Many of the geometric patterns displayed
are dated from the fourth to second centuries BC. These patterns symbolically
represented hope, prosperity, good health and protection regardless of faith as
Middle Eastern people lived in harmony within their region in earlier times.
Nature was a common design element as shown in stitches of the moon, cypress
tree, the tree of life, and the bird of paradise. Later stitching patterns
incorporated Christian symbolism such as the cross and medallions symbolic
the four apostles. However, patterns, materials used, and color reflected region
more than they reflected faith.
Dress from Haifa, Galilee
Men generally did professional weaving, but
the detailed embroidery work and the special patterns were within the exclusive
domain of women. In the period of Muslim Arab rule of the seventh century
forward when textile arts flourished, delicate design was likely possible due to
the availability of finer needles from improved steel manufacturing techniques
in Damascus. This is reflected in tenth century fabric remnants of fine
embroidery that have actually been found in Egypt. So over the course of
history, the refined needlework craftsmanship came from a communion of people,
both men and women, working in their defined roles yet ultimately together to
achieve exquisite results.
In addition, the collection demonstrates
the use of natural dyes in brilliant threads that appear luminous against
indigo, black and natural linen backgrounds or that embellish as an artistic
compliment to luxurious colorful silks and rich velvets. Age-old recipes for
dyes used spices, oak bark, cochineal insects, madder, indigo and other plants
The finest embroidery also reflects
economic prosperity since it was a leisure craft requiring an investment in time
and materials. More sparsely embroidered fabrics did not require as much thread
or as much leisure time to stitch. A well-illustrated comparison of the
economics of various regions and time periods are shown in the collection on
Dress from Ramallah,
These collected and preserved masterpieces
of Middle Eastern ethnic folk dress are a tribute to the countless unknown women
who labored with devotion to make them. Little did they realize that each piece
would become a script unto itself of ancient symbols and regional heritage that
would eventually introduce part of the rich Palestinian and Arabic culture and
history to the Western world, from as early as Roman times through the Crusades
and Ottoman Rule to the present day.
The "Threads of Tradition" exhibition is on
temporary loan from the combined collections of the Palestinian Heritage
Foundation and Hanan and Farah Munayyer, both Palestinian born American
citizens. The exhibition is available for self-guided viewing May 12, 2005 until
November every Thursday and Saturday from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM.
Threads of Tradition
By Ann Dudurich,
Friday, May 6, 2005
New Jersey couple loans a portion of
their ancient Palestinian costume collection to the Antiochian Heritage Museum
It's a tale of needle and thread: a story
woven from fabrics of long ago.
"Threads of Tradition" - an exhibit filled
with antique embroidered Palestinian dresses, shawls and scarves - offers a
glimpse into an ancient culture largely unfamiliar to the Western world.
Collectors Farah and Hanan Munayyer, of West Caldwell,
have dedicated 18 years to their art. They've gathered nearly 1,500 items,
including 400 dresses.
"A result of hard work and achievement,"
says Farah Munayyer, who was born in Jaffa and his wife Hanan was born in Haifa.
The couple is pleased to loan a portion of
their assemblage to the Antiochian Heritage Museum, near Bolivar, for a
Costumes from the villages of Deir Tarif and
"Threads of Tradition" will open to the
public Saturday with a multicultural gala celebration. Visitors will be treated
to an hors d'oeuvre reception in the museum lobby, followed by a lecture and
tour of the exhibition. After browsing the collection, guests will dine on
traditional Syrian and Arabic dishes. The evening will conclude with a concert
by violin virtuoso Hanna Khoury. Desserts and special coffees will be served in
the lobby afterward.
The Munayyer collection spans nearly a
century - from the 1860s to the 1940s - and represents stylistic tradition
inherent to ancient Palestine. Because 19th century travel was difficult,
villages remained isolated. As a result, clothing and accessories evolved into a
statement of region.
style in Ramallah, for example, incorporated palm trunk-shaped embroidery in
cross-stitch on the back panels of the dresses. A woman from Bethlehem, on the
other hand, would be recognizable in vivid purple linen, with an elegant
embroidery done in couching stitch. Regardless of region, the colors are vivid.
The needlework is painstaking.
Costumes from Jerusalem and Bethlehem
A remarkable collection, to be sure; one
the Munayyers are eager to share with others. So much so, the couple founded the
Palestinian Heritage Foundation in 1992 as a way to preserve Palestinian arts
and crafts. Their goal: education.
"We want to tell the world, 'Yes, we do
have a culture. We do have a civilization, predating the apostles," says Farah
Munayyer. "We want to tell the world that we are not just terrorists and suicide
bombers, but rather people of culture, history and great civilization that goes
back to 2000 B.C. when the Canaanites inhabited Palestine."
With art, he says, comes understanding.
"When you follow a political route, many doors are closed to you. Art opens the
door, and you can get the message out through the cultural approach."
It hasn't always been easy. Farah Munayyer
recalls a time not so long ago when the foundation found it difficult to recruit
Arab-American models. "They were shy and didn't care to do it." he says.
The Munayyers no longer have to coax. "They
are proud to wear these dresses. They are proud of their heritage," says Farah
Munayyer. "That was one of the goals we wanted to achieve."
Palestinian Historical Garb
By Dawn law
Monday, May 9, 2005
the Saturday opening of "Threads of Tradition" at the Antiochian Heritage Museum in
Fairfield Township got a personal tour of Palestinian costumes with collector
Munayyer, 64, is
an American of Palestinian origin married to Hanan, and father to Maha, Randa
and Mona. Farah and Hanan
are pharmaceutical scientists living in West Caldwell, N.J., and co-founders of
the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. He was born in Jaffa, and she was born in
Haifa. Intending to work in science, they came to
the United States in 1970.
from left: Metropolitan Philip, Naila Asali, Dr. Ziad Asali
and Dr. Joseph Qutub
began collecting Palestinian costumes in 1987 and formed the foundation in 1992.
They have collected 1,500 artifacts, including dresses, menswear, headdresses,
wall hangings, jewelry and shoes.
Hanan has researched and traced Middle Eastern history back to 2000 B.C. With
the costumes and a book they plan to publish, they want to share their findings.
The book "will include research that was never published before," Munayyer said.
"The dresses and motifs on the dresses would tell the world a different story
and project the political message through culture rather than gunfire. Through
culture and art, you can penetrate anything. You can break
from left: Nabil Mohamad, Naila Asali, Dr. Ziad Asali and Dr.
The exhibit travels through the regions of Haifa, Ramallah, Asdud and
the coastal region, the Bedouins of the Naqab Desert, El-Khalil, Jerusalem and
Bethlehem and Jaffa. Dresses on exhibit date to the mid 1800s, are made of
linen, cotton and silk and are generally of an A-line shape with embroidered
culture, it wasn't polite for men to look women in the face, so the women "were
sure they had a very nice back panel," Munayyer said, smiling. Each town or
village had its own color, material and embroidery motifs. For instance, dresses
from the Asdud and coastal region contain a gorgeous purple extracted from
In the former
village of Beit Dajan in the Jaffa Region, a typical dress was white because
"This is an area where it is very hot," he said. Also in Jaffa, the panels were
embroidered with cypress tree and citrus flower symbols indicating the orange
crop grown there. "I know this because I lived there," Munayyer said. "To
separate the citrus fields, they would plant cypress trees between."
In Ramallah, a
prevalent symbol on dresses was the trunk of a palm tree. "Even though Ramallah
has no palm trees, years back people from the Ramallah region came from the
village of Shobak across the river Jordan because two different families fought
about a man and a woman."
Ramallah parent watching their children through the "mashrabiyyeh" window.
23, a graduate of Georgetown University working in advertising, accompanied her
father to the opening in a dress worn in the 1940s in the Naqab Desert. "When
people look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they don't see Palestinians as
having a history and they do," she said. "What I love about this is they use
culture to educate people, especially the American public, that Arabs have a
history a heritage and an identity that's positive and very old."
Tradition" is on loan from the combined collections of the Munayyers and the
foundation, and is available for viewing until November from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Seen at the
opening: Metropolitan Philip Saliba, archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox
Archdiocese of North America; Father Michael Massouh, executive director of
Antiochian Village, where the museum is located; Joseph Qutub, president of Arab
Student Aid International; Dr. Ziad Asali, president of the American Taskforce for
Palestine; Bruce Jabara; Naila Asali; Virginia Massouh; Father Michael and
Vickie Nasser; Mike and Denise O'Neal; Madelon Sheedy; Shirley Iscrupe; Robert
and Gladys Laham; Carol Sutherland; Ziad and Claudia Barghash; Laurice Barghash;
Salim and Julie Abboud; John and Vernie West; Dick and Helene Moore; and Eissa
and Josephina Abboud.
information, call 724-238-3677, or visit
Threads of Tradition
Saturday, May 7, 2005
Heritage Museum at
Antiochian Village, Bolivar, PA, Opening reception, tour of the exhibit
Threads of Tradition
So far, the largest and most impressive
Palestinian costume exhibit ever in the United States by the Palestinian
Currated by Hanan Munayyer, the exhibit includes over 40
complete bridal costumes, veils, jackets, jewelry and brass utensils
all regions of Palestine, 1940s rare water color original paintings
of Palestine by the Jerusalemite German born artist Anna Rychter May, Ceramics
made by the famous Balian Jerusalemite family of the Palestine Pottery. The
exhibit included over 300 items on display.
In the Mail:
I have not had time to explore your whole site but I like what I see. I wish I
had seen some of the material when I was doing picture research earlier this
year on costumes. All the best
I think your website is great! I would really like to know how I can obtain a
copy of "Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy".
I live in
Australia and I would like to know how I would go about ordering the Video.
Thank you and keep up the good work.
Farah Sultan, Australia.
Dear Farah and
Charles and I
enjoyed our visit to the Antiochian Village. Seeing those beautiful
costumes brought back so many memories of Palestine. What a very beautiful
job you both did. I was intrigued by some of the slides Farah showed and
would enjoy seeing them all. The idea of a book is great. Thank you so
much for including us.
The best to you
Office of Overseas Schools
Department of State
Dear Farah and Hanan
Kol el ehteraam!!
Deeb Daoud, MD, Galilee
Dear Hanan and Farah,
I want to congratulate you
all on a fantastic, informative and educational website. I sent a
link to Ethel Tobach, Ph.D. and Joel Federman, Ph.D. Both are
faculty at the graduate school I'm attending (Saybrook Graduate
School and Research Center). Ethel although officially retired, ran
the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. She collects her
pension while she remains active in the day to day operation of the
museum. Joel has a website
www.topia.net where he shares information about peaceful
conflict resolution and global social transformation. Joel and
Ethel are very active in promoting a peaceful resolution to the
I admire your continued
commitment to sharing the rich and important culture of the
Palestinian people and other Arabs. I wish you all peace, serenity,
success and good health always.
Peace and Love,
The web site is great, I did not realize how developed it is. Thank
you for including us in the email.
Dear Mr. Munayyer,
It is a pleasure reading through the latest newsletter in which the
‘thank you” letter of Suhail Khoury was included. We highly appreciate your
support to the Conservatory, and your efforts in the promotion and
the preservation of our Palestinian culture. Hope you will be able
to visit our institute during your visit to Palestine.
Beautiful job on this
George and Elsie Nassor
I found your site while
looking for information about Palestine. Very nice and informative. I made a
from my website, so everyone can enjoy it. If placing this link is a
problem, please let me know and
I will remove it from my site.
Jan Kersten, Holland
Palestinian Costumes & Embroidery: A Precious Legacy
A Video Review By Shira
For the video review by Shira click the link below: