Palestinian embroidery added to UNESCO cultural heritage list | Arts and culture news


Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – The United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) has added the art of traditional Palestinian embroidery to its list of intangible cultural heritage.

Wednesday’s registration was made during the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, an annual gathering of hundreds of participants including representatives of the state, NGOs and cultural institutions.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh thanked UNESCO for its decision.

“This step is important and timely, in order to protect our Palestinian identity, heritage and narrative, in the face of the occupation’s attempts to steal what it does not have,” Shtayyeh said in a statement Wednesday.

Palestinian embroidery – or “tatreez” – is an artistic tradition passed down from generation to generation that involves hand-sewing patterns and patterns with brightly colored threads onto clothing. The thobe, a traditional loose dress worn by Palestinian women, is the most commonly embroidered garment.

Although the practice originated in rural areas, the culture of sewing and wearing embroidered items is now common in towns and villages, with different designs representing different regions of historic Palestine that can serve as an indicator of the economic and marital status of the woman wearing this.

Palestinian women sew traditional Palestinian embroidery in the port city of Sidon, southern Lebanon, June 14, 2016 [Ali Hashisho/Reuters]

Atef Abu Saif, the Palestinian Authority’s culture minister, said the ministry has worked for more than two years to get Palestinian embroidery on the list.

“Heritage is the living reservoir of the memory of our people on this land. The preservation of the national cultural identity of our heritage is essential to the need to face an occupation which exploits all its capacities to eradicate and steal it, ”he said in a statement.

“What our grandparents and ancestors created and left for us as a legacy of beauty, splendor and deep-rooted roots, is the best proof that we are the people of this land,” Abu Saif added.

Wednesday’s list described Palestinian embroidery as a “social and intergenerational practice.”

“The women get together in their homes to do embroidery and needlework, often with their daughters. Many women embroider as a hobby, and some produce and sell embroidered pieces to supplement their family’s income, alone or in collaboration with other women.

The practice is passed on from mother to daughter and through formal training, adds the list.

UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with them – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize it as part of their intangible cultural heritage. cultural heritage “.

The Representative List was first launched in 2008. In its 2003 convention, UNESCO defines the objective of the List as “ensuring greater visibility” and “raising awareness” of the importance of the nominated elements. for inscription as representatives of intangible cultural heritage. Some of the well-known items on the list include Chinese puppets, French gourmet meals, and South Korean kimchi.

Miss Universe controversy

The move comes days after the 2021 Miss Universe contestants were criticized for what Palestinians called appropriation of their culture during a tour of Israel ahead of the competition held in the southern city of Eilat on December 12. .

During their visit to the predominantly Bedouin town of Rahat, the contestants posted images of themselves on social media donning embroidered Palestinian thobes while making stuffed grape leaves. Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez got pissed off a lot when she subtitle his photos with a “day in the life of a Bedouin”, as well as a hashtag #VisitIsrael.

“Colonialism, racism, cultural appropriation, patriarchy, whitewashing, all in one place,” Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director for the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD) and political analyst within the Al-Shabaka think tank, noted.

The activist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) based in the United States describe as a “cultural theft” and an “attempt at self-indigenization”.

“Through publications sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Miss Universe contestants showed their commitment to Palestinian traditions in food, clothing and dance – but they named this culture, along with the land and people she is from, ‘Israeli’. “

“Miss Universe messages demonstrate the importance of a cultural boycott of Israel. The Israeli government is blatantly using culture as a tool to glorify or camouflage its oppression of the Palestinians, so we must collectively resist participating in it or bringing it our attention, ”the group said.

On Wednesday, a group of Palestinian women wearing embroidered thobes descended on al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to protest the Miss Universe incident.

“I am wearing this thobe and will pass it on to my granddaughter. We are here today – we have a history, a civilization and roots, ”Nadia Hassan Mustafa, 70, from Beitin village, told Al Jazeera.

Laila Ghannam, the governor of Ramallah declared that “this type of dress is part of our daily life and all those who follow our culture know it”.

“We don’t use it for fashion shows or for beauty queens. Our beauty is well known, it is in our mothers, in the mothers of martyrs and prisoners, in the beauty of oppressed women, ”she told Al Jazeera.

Additional reporting by Hisham Daraghmeh in Ramallah.


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