Foundation Exhibits at Rockland Historical
By Kimberly A. Beach
On Sunday, August 22, 1999, the Historical Society of Rockland County held
a reception to commemorate the opening of the exhibit "East Meets
West: Common Threads in Cultures." The exhibit showcased late
nineteenth and early twentieth century Middle Eastern costumes on loan
from the Palestinian Heritage Foundation and the Farah and Hanan Munayyer
Collection, as well as comparable American costumes from the permanent
collection of the Historical Society of Rockland County.
"Taqsireh" jackets from the Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
The opening featured a lecture by Hanan Karaman Munayyer about the
ancient traditions of Middle Eastern costumes. Mrs. Munayyer spoke about
how the same patterns and styles that appeared in antiquity could also be
found at the beginning of this century. A tasting of traditional Middle
Eastern food followed her lecture, which was attended by about fifty
"East Meets West" explores the connections between the
traditional dress of the Middle East and the United States. At first
glance, these two distinctive regions may
not seem to have much in common.
But both cultures had specific fashion guidelines for mourning and wedding
attire that were quite similar. American clothing also had intricate
designs, complex headwear, brightly colored fabrics, and other
characteristics found in traditional Middle Eastern costume.
The dresses in the exhibit represent centuries of continuity in the
style of Middle Eastern costume. For hundreds of years, the brightly
colored textiles and rich embroidery of traditional Palestinian costume
remained unchanged. Throughout the ages, the crafts of spinning, weaving,
dyeing, and embroidery were held in high esteem in Middle Eastern culture.
In Palestine and Syria, the period between 1880 and 1940 were the last
years of traditional dress before the changes wrought by the tumult of
war. Though there are still some women who continue to preserve
traditional patterns by copying older dresses, Western influences and the
Palestinian Diaspora have changed the regional style drastically.
Costumes from Kalamon, Syria and
In contrast, rapidly changing cycles of fashion in the United States
have made it difficult to establish a traditional style of dress. In a
relatively new society that has always been a mixture of different
cultures and traditions, Americans have not had an ancient style of dress
to preserve for future generations.
Despite these differences, several similarities between the costumes
became apparent upon closer examination of both collections.
Ceremonial occasions, such as marriage and death, provided clear areas
of comparison. All of the Middles Eastern pieces in the exhibition were
wedding dresses, hand embroidered with silk thread, mostly on hand woven
fabrics. Some aspects of American wedding costume are similar to the
Middle Eastern traditions. In the nineteenth century, most American
brides-to-be did not wear white dresses. They often chose colors like
brown or blue that would not normally be associated with wedding customs
Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron
In both America and the Middle East there was a specific style of dress
to express mourning. In American society, women traditionally wore black
from head to toe for a specific period of time, depending on the
relationship to the deceased. By the end of the nineteenth century, the
rules of mourning had relaxed, but there was still a code for mourners to
In the Middle East, color schemes for mourning were more subdued than
colors used in everyday dress. The period of mourning was also lengthy,
many times lasting as long as a year.
Both cultures prized intricate decoration on their costumes. All of the
Middle Eastern dresses in the exhibit are covered with embroidery on the
chest piece, back and side panels.
Two of the American dresses on view are also embroidered. Metallic
thread was used in both cultures to decorate clothing. A jacket from Bethlehem prominently displayed gold metallic thread done in couching
stitch. A sleeveless red and gold lame dress from the 1920s in the
Historical Society's collection had metallic thread accents.
During this time period, fashion and culture in both cultures dictated
that women must cover their heads. Palestinian women wore heavy
headdresses laden with coins, covered by a large headscarf. American women
in this period were also wearing ornate hats and headdresses to compliment
their attire. Beads, ribbons, and large plumes of feathers decorated the
fashionable woman's head in a rainbow of colors. Head coverings were
popular for both men and women throughout the first half of the twentieth
century. The exhibit featured two hats with large plumes of ostrich
feathers perched on top.
Man and child costume with Hebron
The exhibit also featured Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A
Precious Legacy, a video produced by the PHF that describes the various
styles worn in the villages of the Middle East. It also explained the
symbolic meaning of the patterns and traces their origins in antiquity.
According to educator Christopher Kenney, the Historical Society plans
to augment this exhibit through a variety of programming and special
events. "I plan to hold an embroidery workshop to give people a
chance to create their own works of art based on patterns found on the
dresses," says Kenny. "People will have the opportunity to see
what it was like to embroider, and they will get a sense of how long it
takes to make one of the dresses. Anyone who sees the exhibit will see the
beautiful embroidery, and I would like to give people a chance to try it
themselves. I would like to put these dresses into the context of the
cultures in which they were created and worn."
Hanan and Farah with Rockland County Historical Society staff.
The embroidery workshops will be held for both adults and children.
Kenny is also working to create some after school tours and activities
relating to the exhibit.
Tal es Safa: Casting Our Palestinian Roots in
Tal es-Safa, a luxury 38-home development, perches on one of the
western ridges of Ramallah with a view that stretches to Jaffa on a clear
day. Built in classical style that can be found in Jerusalem's Old City
and other neighborhoods, it seeks to recreate the feel of a traditional
terraced Palestinian village. Two rows of spacious Jerusalem stone
apartments and villas cling to the hillside, with arcade walkways and
stone staircases running between them. Olive trees are scattered
throughout the development.
Each of the individually designed homes features domed ceilings,
decorative ironwork, hand-carved pillars and internal courtyards with
plumbing for a fountain. Residents also enjoy en suite jacuzzis, air
conditioning, under-floor heating, underground parking and many other
conveniences of 21st century living. A community center with a swimming
pool and aerobics hall is also available.
The blossoming luxury-housing compound is one of a kind in Palestine.
Tal es-Safa has an authentic 19th century village ambience, where the
charm and character of traditional Palestinian architecture can be felt
all around. The village provides a whole new concept of a model community
where family life flourishes, where east and west, and past and present
come together to create the best of all possible worlds.
As you drive up to Tal es Safa, the beautiful stone walls meet you,
with electronic access gates enclosing the village and providing an added
value to the 24-hour high level security services. The quality of life in
the village is in itself an invitation to luxury and comfort. The
landscaped gardens, plazas, terraced olive groves, lanes and stairways
preserve the privacy of each residence while controlling pedestrian/
traffic flow in common areas. A playground specifically designed for
entertaining the children was also created.
Tal es Safa is only 10 minutes away from Ramallah and about half an
hour away from Jerusalem, providing easy access to the shops, restaurants
and prestigeous schools and universities.
The project's backers are Zahi Khouri, a New York-based Palestinian
entrepreneur originally Jaffa in 1948, and the Masri family of the West
For information call 972-2-296 1701 or Fax: 972-2-296 1702 E-mail:
Revealing the Holy Land
The Photographic Exploration of Palestine
(Reproduced from the Dahesh Museum Brochure)
The first golden age of photography coincided with the modern
rediscovery of Jerusalem and Palestine by nations of the West. Many
motives drew visitors to this land. There were amateurs intent on
documenting part of the Grand Tour, academics seeking proof of Biblical
events or archaeological theories and, of course, commercial purveyors of
exotic views and native portraits for tourists and armchair travelers.
Others arrived on an imperial mission to map the territory of this
important political crossroads: a gateway to the Indian subcontinent, a
bastion of the British Empire.
Each photographer tried to capture the "reality" of a land
that has enormous spiritual, emotional and political connotations for most
of the Western world. How well they succeeded was documented in the
exhibition, Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of
Palestine, in last summer's exhibition at the Dahesh Museum in New York
Organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California from the
brilliant collection of Michael and Jane Wilson, Revealing the Holy Land
presented 91 vintage prints made over a period of three decades,
1850-1880. The core of the exhibition is a group of thirty-five previously
unexhibited photographs taken by Sergeant James McDonald for Britain's
Royal Engineers' surveys of Jerusalem (1864) and the Sinai Peninsula
(1868-69). His mandate was to capture "the most interesting places in
and about Jerusalem." Combining the skills of a surveyor, topographer
and excellent photographer, he captured the haunting, majestic and often
severe landscapes and architectural sites that document the early history
of the region as well as the early history of photography.
The exhibition opens with images by the French writer Maxime Du Camp,
who learned photography in order to travel through the Holy Land, and by
some talented amateurs like the Rev. George Bridges and the Anglo-German
banker, Ernest Benecke, whose salted paper prints date from mid-century.
Auguste Salzmann's images of Jerusalem published in 1856 are considered
the first examples of applying photography to Biblical archaeology. The
bold compositions of his large-format paper prints are masterpieces of
Bible and Empire are joined in the work of the next generation: Francis
Bedford and the famous, commercially successful Francis Frith and Frank
Mason Good. The team of James Robertson and Felix Beato produced views and
portraits as souvenirs, sold in albums or as stereoscopic cards that
preserved in three dimensions great architectural studies, important
landscapes and portraits of the people of the region for a Victorian
The history of art in the 19th century cannot be considered separately
from the birth and development of photography. In Revealing the Holy Land,
we see how photography moves across the boundary of aesthetic aid to
discrete work of art.
The Cultural Thread
By Meriam Lobel
"The Cultural Thread" project will highlight one of the
outstanding artistic traditions of New Jersey -the art of embroidery- a
tradition that has continued to evolve with changes in global migrations
and global economy. The project will produce a group of exhibits to be
displayed in galleries and libraries, lectures and walking tours
highlighting the production of embroideries, as well as music and dance
performances by cultural groups whose members create and use the
Scarves from Hebron, Gaza, Beit Dajan and Ramallah at Textile
The Cultural Thread is designed to draw public attention to an area of
New Jersey rich in cultural traditions, but one whose identity is largely
unknown. Situated just across the Hudson River from New York City,
northeastern New Jersey is the capital of the embroidery industry in the
United States. From the 1870s, when Swiss and German immigrants set up the
heavy machines they brought from Switzerland on the strong bedrock of the
Palisades, through the 1970s, the small embroidery shops in this area
supplied up to 90% of the U.S. market with Schiffli embroidery.
Over the past twenty years, the embroidery shops have suffered due to
increased competition from overseas where production costs are
significantly lower. Nevertheless, 5500 people still work in the
embroidery shops of the North Hudson-South Bergen corridor. Waves of
immigrant groups have found their way into the U.S. economy working in
this trade. Entering a shop as a semiskilled laborer and working their way
up through apprenticeships, individuals and families have built
livelihoods creating embroidery.
The Cultural Thread is a major project of the Folk Arts Program at the
Park Theatre, a community cultural institution in the heart of the
embroidery corridor. It will not only draw much needed attention to a key
element of the area's cultural heritage, but will also draw attention to
the strong identities of distinct cultural groups who populate this region
but whose cultural traditions are overlooked by the dominant mainstream
Ramallah "Khirka" scarf at
the Fuller Museum, Brockton, MA.
All of the programming in the Cultural Thread will be carried out in
venues easily accessible to the diverse general public. One exhibition
site will be the Arts and Crafts Building of Union City, an old silk mill
that now houses garment shops and artists' studios. Other exhibits will
feature the work of artists with personal explanatory notes that convey
the importance of these traditions to the people who created and treasure
them. A model for the exhibit format is"From Baba's Hope Chest:
Macedonian Treasures in Canada," an exhibit mounted at the Museum for
Textiles in Toronto.
The performances accompanying the exhibits will be held in the 1400
seat Park Theatre and will illustrate the spectacular use of embroidery
and lace in the costumes worn by performers from diverse cultural
traditions. These costumes are cultural signifiers, and are often just as
aesthetically important to the performers as their music and dance
There will be a large group of collaborators on this comprehensive
project including Hanan Karaman Munayyer, a Palestinian scientist who has
a world class collection of Palestinian and Syrian embroideries, has
in exhibition displays, expertise in Palestinian and Middle
Eastern embroidery and knowledge of other ethnic embroidery traditions. Hanan will present a lecture demonstration on Palestinian embroideries and
assist in the exhibitions of the project.
Display of Palestinian costumes at Mingei Museum of Folk Art, CA.
The artists selected both for the exhibits and the performances will be
the strongest representatives of the traditions in New Jersey: Arabs,
Greeks, Africans, South Americans, Ukranians and Americans.
The exhibitions will be held in a variety of settings throughout the
state to give the widest exposure possible to this artistic tradition.
Lecture demonstrations will be held in community centers, libraries and
schools throughout the area.
This program will reach audiences throughout New Jersey and the
tri-state area. Publicity materials will be sent to major news publications in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Target audiences
will include the communities of North Hudson-South-Bergen many of whom
know many people working in the embroidery industry, members of ethnic
groups whose cultural traditions are included in the exhibitions and
performances, and the general public interested in embroidery and fashion.
United Palestinian Appeal Donates to PHF
The United Palestinian Appeal has approved a grant of $1000 to support
the cultural activities of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. This
generous donation came at the recommendation of UPA Board member Issam
Salah Esq., of New York. Mr. Salah, who has been following PHF activities,
is very interested in the Foundation's mission.
In a letter to the Foundation, Deputy Executive Director Ms. Makboula
Yasin wrote: "I am pleased to inform you that the Board of Trustees
of United Palestinian Appeal has approved $1000 to support the Palestinian
Heritage Foundation's display of Palestinian arts, crafts and culture
during the "East Meet West: Common Threads in Cultures" exhibit
at the Rockland County Historical Society of New City, New York.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, please accept our deep appreciation
for the excellent work you are doing in promoting Palestinian arts and
A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in
New York City
The Museum of the City of New York presents a two-day symposium on
February 5 and 6, 2000 that traces the historical development of New York
City's Arab American communities and explores the formation of Arab
American identity through the arts, the creation of social and economic
institutions, and political activity.
The symposium is co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute of Columbia
University. and the New York Council for the Humanities, a state program
of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Museum hopes to create an exhibition on Arab Americans in New York
City that will visually explore the themes of the two-day symposium.
For this exhibition, the Museum and its partner group of scholars of
Arabic heritage seek to borrow photographs, documents, and
three-dimensional objects that will help them tell the rich and varied
story of Arab Americans in New York City.
The symposium will include panels on such topics as Early Immigration
Patterns, Early Arab Immigrant Culture, the Public Sector, Private
Expressions/Public Representations and Social Changes in New York's
Contemporary Arab Culture.
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation encourages its friends to register
early. Although there is no admission fee for the symposium itself there
is a $10.00 per person per day fee for catered lunch. Guests may bring bag
Musician and Oud Maker Najib Shaheen
The Oud, the oldest and most central instrument in the Middle Eastern
music tradition, is widely considered the ancestor of the Pharaohnic Nafer
and the ancient Persian Barbat. It is known as the forbearer of the
European lute, which emerged after the introduction of the oud in
Najib Shaheen, a New York based musician and oud maker, believes that
the particular resonance of the oud lies in its wood, which contributes to
the general sound of the instrument. The oud's sound resonates within its
hollow body, which has a rounded back and a soundboard enclosing it. The
back is made of fifteen to twenty-five strips of wood, usually ebony,
rosewood, walnut or a combination thereof. The soundboard is characterized
by a main circular opening called the rosette. Towards the base of the
soundboard is the bridge (al-ghazal) where the instrument's strings are
The specific elements of an excellent oud have not been comprehensively
explored nor scientifically investigated. They are the trade secrets of
oud makers, said Najib Shaheen. The oud maker's intention in crafting the
oud is to achieve maximum resonance. The soundboard is a particularly
delicate component of the instrument.
Najib has taken steps to increase the sound quality and projection of
the oud through subtle modifications of the soundboard's habitual
structure. Like most oud makers, Shaheen uses different kinds of wood for
the beams and the soundboard. He combines the warmth of spruce and the
crispness of cedar to produce a high quality tone, and maximizes the
reverberations of the sound by minimizing the beams and soundboard. Since
its emergence in early civilization, the oud's unique tone has established
itself in traditional musical forms throughout the Arab world and North
Africa. Developments in the structure and craftsmanship of the oud will
remain the purview of oud makers for years to come. Notwithstanding, the
oud cannot but maintain its very viable place in the family of
Jerusalem Fund Hosts PHF Exhibition for Six
The Jerusalem Fund of Washington DC has recently asked the Palestinian
Heritage Foundation to set up a display of Palestinian arts and crafts,
including Palestinian traditional costumes and embroidery, at the Fund's
center for a period of six months.
The Jerusalem Fund has recently expanded its center creating space and
an arrangement of cabinets that is more suitable for the display. Hanan Munayyer will also give two lectures during the year to friends
of the Jerusalem Fund as part of the Fund's lecture series.
Palestinian Heritage Foundation at Nazareth 2000
During his recent trip to the Middle East this past October, Farah held
several meetings to discuss the possibility of establishing a Museum of
Palestinian Heritage in the town of Nazareth as part of the 2000
Celebrations being planned for the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Farah met with Mr. Ramiz Jaraisy Mayor of Nazareth and his deputy,
Attorney Walid Fahoum, as well as representatives of the Ministry of
Tourism in Jerusalem and the Arab media in Nazareth. The idea was well
received by all and the project was put into motion.
The proposed exhibition will provide a "glimpse into the
past" and will include modern Palestinian arts, crafts and culture.
The exhibition will be housed in a building located in the old town of
Although the PHF hopes that the exhibition will be a tourist attraction
in Nazareth, its greater goal is to host visits from Arab school children
throughout Palestine growing up in a modern world removed from their
Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids
The astonishing sculpture, reliefs, paintings, and other works of art
on view in this featured exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art were
created in Egypt during the third millennium BC, when the famous pyramids
at Giza were built. Youthful vigor, confidence, and joy in life are
reflected in the distinctly lifelike images of the pyramid builders, whose
sculptors and craftsmen defined once and for all the essence of Egyptian
This major international loan exhibition displays some 250 works from
more than 30 museums in Egypt, Europe, and North America. Included are
portraits of kings and queens, a statue of the architect of the pyramid of
Khufu, several portrait-like heads, delicate relief scenes, elegant luxury
vessels, and furniture, together with a great variety of sculptures
depicting high officials and their families.
"Egyptian Art in the Ages of the Pyramids" was organized by
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Re'union des Muse'e
Nationaux, Paris, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
Jamal Badran Renowned Palestinian Artist Dies at
Jamal Badran was born in Haifa, Palestine in 1909. In 1922 he left
Palestine for Egypt to join the School of Arts in the Hamzawi neighborhood
of Cairo. In 1927 he graduated with a degree in arts, concentrating on
kufic Arabic designs. Upon returning to Palestine he joined the Egyptian
Expedition to Renovate the Dome of the Rock "Al Haram Ash Sharif"
in Jerusalem and taught art in the Ministry of Education.
work by Jamal Badran
Under the auspices of Mr. Stewart, a teacher of Jamal Badran in Cairo
and the newly appointed Inspector of Education and Art to Palestine during
the British Mandate over Palestine, Mr. Badran was sent to study at the
Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He graduated in 1937 and
assumed a teaching position at the prestigious Arab College in Jerusalem,
In the early 1940s, Jamal Badran was delegated by UNESCO to teach art
in Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya and immediately after the Palestinian Naqbe
in 1948, he left Jerusalem for Damascus, Syria, to teach at its Art
After the war of 1967 and during his years in Ramallah, Palestine,
Jamal Badran was appointed to head the team to renovate the Al Aqsa Mosque
after an extremist fanatic citizen of Israel set fire to it. This task
lasted for six years during which all carved wood, ceramic artwork and
kufic Arabic calligraphy was restored to its original condition.
Some of Mr. Badran's outstanding work involved parchment lampshades and
olive wood carved lampposts handpainted with Persian and Arabic motifs,
Koranic verses in Arabic kufic writing on Hebron glass, and wall hangings
with Koranic verses painted in gold.
Mr. Badran was the recipient of several medals for his role in
educating many generations of Palestinians, Syrians, Libyans and
Jordanians including a Medal of Honor from King Abdullah I of Jordan.