Culture in Context: A Tapestry of
exhibition welcomes you to the homes, work places and community spaces of
dozens of New Jersey residents whose skills in traditional arts weave the
into the present and create a tapestry rich with meaning and beauty.
Their traditions may be shaped by ethnic or religious heritage, by the
resources and industries of a
regional environment, or by occupation, gender
or age group. Whether music and dance, food ways, home decoration, clothing,
practical crafts, rituals, or holiday and only day customs, each artistic
expression is a symbolic story. It extends beyond the artist to include the
history, values and beliefs of the artist's community.
featured in this exhibition have participated in the Folk Arts
Apprenticeship Grant Program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
These grants support apprentices as they perfect their skills in traditional
arts under the watchful eyes of master artists from their communities. The
traditions strengthen community life and, in turn, fortify the broader
only a small number of the 150 artists who have received these grants are
included here and in performances and residencies throughout the run of the
exhibition, many more such dedicated artists are all around us, often
working without recognition to keep traditions alive in homes, workplaces
and communities. Each of them is a curator of the culture. We hope that they
inspire you to recognize, value and strengthen your own cultural traditions,
and provide an opportunity for a new appreciation of the traditions of
others. Together, we all weave the tapestry of New Jersey folk life.
is a women's art that tells women's history." Hanan Munayyer
are probably, along with food ways, the most prevalent women's art across
cultures. Women have knit, sewn, woven, embroidered, patched and pieced
their own and their families' histories onto the tapestry of time. For Hanan
Munayyer, embroidery patterns are a kind of script that have allowed women,
regardless of their education, to express their creativity and demonstrate
their mastery of a traditional repertoire.
grew up in Haifa, and like most Palestinian girls, learned the
traditional embroidery of the family's ancestral home in Galilee from her
mother at an early age. Its elaborate designs are created principally
through cross-stitch and couching. Couching has been called a "drawing
stitch' because it is often used to outline a design by over-sewing a
heavier thread with a finer one. The specific designs communicate a woman's
marital status and her family's economic and social status.
achievement of a young Palestinian woman's skills is her wedding dress,
which she begins embroidering years before she marries. Recognizing this,
Hanan and her husband Farah began collecting antique wedding dresses in the
1980s and have used them an the centerpiece of their work in educating the
public about traditional Palestinian culture. Their collection tells the
story of Palestinian women's history in several ways. It documents the
artistic achievement of dozens of young women and embodies their social
experience as a group. Further, it represents the cultural journey of Hanan
from her Palestinian homeland to America, and her dedication to both
preserving the tradition and sharing its story.
did not make a traditional embroidered dress for her marriage, she has
incorporated the traditional stitchery into her life in other ways. In her
home, framed elements of traditional costumes - a headdress, the yoke of a
gown - grace the walls as artworks. Hanan decorates pillows, scarves,
jackets and dresses with the traditional designs of her family's ancestral home. Her daughters' have learned the craft from her to continue the
history of Palestinian women into the Diaspora.
also at the exhibit is a sculpture of a "Village Woman at the Marketplace",
sculpted by Hanan in 1973.
donates dress to Foundation
Bordcosh became a friend and supporter of the Palestinian Heritage
Foundation in the early 1990s after attending a live performance by the
Foundation at the United Nations in New York were she worked. Since then, Rima
and her sister Leila have attended almost all PHF activities including the
most recent banquet held in April
2007 to celebrate the Foundation's twentieth anniversary.
November, Rima and Leila were among 450 guests who attended the opening
reception to the exhibit Palestine: A Continuing Legacy presented by the Foundation at the United Nations
in New York to commemorate the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian
People. To express her admiration for the display and further demonstrate
her support for PHF's activities, Rima decided to
donate the only antique Palestinian costume she owns to the Foundation.
The dress is made of black velvet fabric with orange and red silk panels
embroidered with Bethlehem couching stitch attached to the sleeves, sides,
and chestpiece. This style of dress used to be worn by
Palestinian women in the Ein Karem and Malha villages around Jerusalem.
how she came to own the dress, Rima wrote: "I visited
Jordan in 1976. While I was there I felt drawn closer to Palestine and
wanted to fulfill a desire that I always wanted: to own Palestinian National
dresses and to wear them and to say loud and clear -- this is part of our
inheritance and heritage, a part that was also stolen from us. I went to the
Bakaa refugee camp in Amman with a recommendation from a friend. I visited an
elderly Palestinian lady and she showed me several dresses. I chose the one
I am contributing to your organization. I grabbed it . It was good on me and
the owner explained its history. It apparently was woven and worn in the
Jerusalem area the beginning of the twentieth century. And it exchanged
hands from mother to daughter to grand daughter. What I liked most about it
is that it displays the Tree of Life, that signifies the Palestinian Just
Struggle and right to a dignified life. I loved it and I bought it. I took
care of it as if it was part of me, a part of Palestine."
and Leila were born in Jaffa, Palestine, Farah's hometown and place of birth.
In addition, Farah's father, Joseph Munayyer, a pharmacist, used to work
with Rima's uncle, Atallah Bordcosh, also a pharmacist who owned the largest
pharmacy in downtown Jaffa
during the 1930s.
What a small world !!!
Rima for this generous contribution.
Foundation Acquire Additional Antique Garments
has recently acquired a collection of Palestinian embroidered pillow cases
dating back to the early twentieth century. These items were purchased in
Palestine in the early 1970s by a British subject assigned to the United
Nation's Mission to Jerusalem. The pillows come from the regions of El Khalil, Masmiyyeh and Majdal.
Click images to enlarge
Headdresses Added to Collection
headdresses from the El Khalil region
were recently purchased and added to the Foundation's collection. Both items
were acquired through a dealer.
Click images to enlarge