We are a UK, not-for-profit organization established to support Palestinian embroiderers, to produce a Palestinian History Tapestry. This will tell the story of the villages and towns, and the life and heritage of the indigenous people of Palestine
Palestinian embroiderers are among the most accomplished embroiderers anywhere. Their embroidery is very distinctive and is bought and enjoyed by people all over the world. Patterns used in Palestinian embroidery are traditionally based on geometrical shapes, but also include designs reflecting daily life and events. Throughout the turbulent history of Palestine, women have kept their heritage alive through embroidery. Their work continues to be widely sought after.
We invite you to assist us in helping Palestinian embroiderers: illustrate in stitches the life and heritage of Palestinian people, create an awareness of the history of Palestine, restore hope and self-esteem in a fractured community, and provide income where it is needed.
Proposed aims of the project
- To support the beautiful, traditional craft of Palestinian needlewomen
- To record an insufficiently appreciated history of Palestine
- To provide some income where it is needed
- To give Palestinian needlewomen and their community a focus beyond mere survival
- To extend friendship and support to the Palestinians
Proposed objectives of the project
- To establish an efficient organisational structure
- To raise funds to support the project
- To ensure that Palestinians manage the work
- To obtain informed input from historians
- To seek venues for public display of the completed Palestinian History Tapestry
- To establish digital images of the Palestinian History Tapestry on the world wide web, with links to other relevant resources, such as the Nakba Archive and maps produced by Salman Abu Sitta.
Current Project Group Members
Ghada Karmi is Patron and History Advisor for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian, born in Jerusalem, who grew up in London after the 1948 Nakba. Ghada is a doctor of medicine, a writer, and academic. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Her articles on Palestine have appeared in a wide variety of publications. Her books include ‘In Search of Fatima: a Palestinian story’; ‘Married to another man: Israel’s dilemma in Palestine’; and Return: a Palestinian memoir’.
Team members in the Middle East
Mahmoud Hawari is History Advisor for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. He is a Palestinian archaeologist and activist and lives in Ramallah, Palestine. In 2016 he was appointed Director General of the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit. Mahmoud’s primary research interests are in the archaeology, art and architecture of the Islamic Middle East and the Mediterranean, with a special interest in the history and cultural heritage of Palestine. He has taught at several Palestinian universities, and published widely in his field.
Ibrahim Muhtadi is an Artistic Advisor and Panel Designer for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. He is a Palestinian who lives in the Gaza Strip, and, as an architect, has observed and practised art and design within as well as outside architecture. His many design interests have been expressed in calligraphy, graphic design, jewelry, and home accessories. His main inspiration comes from the authenticity and beauty of Arabic calligraphy. His talent passion for creative expression has led him to transfer his designs from sketches on paper to art canvases, original creative jewelry, and fabric.
Shayma Wahaidi is Field Coordinator in Gaza for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian who was born and raised in Gaza City. After graduating from Al Azhar University Pharmacy College in Gaza, she worked as a pharmacist and taught chemistry and biology to high school and university students. During Israel’s Protective Edge assault on Gaza in 2014, Shayma joined a health programme distributing drinking water, providing hygiene kits and giving healthcare help and advice to people throughout the Gaza Strip. In October 2014 Shayma took up a scholarship to study for a Master’s degree in Public Health at Oxford Brookes University, UK, where she became involved with the Project.
Wafaa Al Za’anin is an Assistant Field Coordinator in Gaza for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian living in Beit Hanoun, a town in the north of the Gaza Strip. She is a dentist who trained in Al-Azhar University, Gaza, and practises at the Al Rimal Clinic in Gaza. Like many Palestinian women she has a passion for embroidery. Wafaa joined the Project in 2013 when her sister Jamila moved to Dubai. Wafaa works with the project to “treasure and promote Palestinian heritage and culture”.
Haya Rustom is an Assistant Field Coordinator in Gaza for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian dentist, who trained at Al-Azhar University, Gaza. She loves traditional Palestinian embroidery and is herself an embroiderer. She likes the artistic creativity and innovation it brings from the stitcher. Haya believes that embroidery is a crucial part of Palestinian national heritage and that keeping this rich heritage alive is vital. “It is a reflection of our identity; and the Palestine History Tapestry Project offers an embodiment of our presence across different times and in different places”.
Yasmin Haj-Amer is Field Coordinator in the Naqab for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Bedouin school teacher and lives near Bir Saba with her husband and two children. She became interested in the Project during her Master’s studies at Oxford Brookes University in 2014. Her father is a successful artist and Yasmin has been surrounded by artistic influences for most of her life. Not only does she coordinate the embroidery team in the Naqab, she also sketches for the Project.
Riham Khalil is Field Coordinator in Lebanon for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian from the village of Al Sufsaf, in the Galilee, but she was born and raised in Kuwait. She currently lives in Lebanon with her husband and family. For the moment she is a ‘stay-at-home mum’, raising her three children. Riham’s most recent employment was with UNRWA as a member of a protection team for Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics from Damascus University. Riham was very happy to receive an invitation to act as Coordinator for the Project in Lebanon. She is pleased with the idea that the long history of Palestine and the Palestinian people should be seen and told in embroidery.
Mahmoud Zeidan is Field Advisor in Lebanon for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. He is a Palestinian from the village of Al Sufsaf, in the Galilee, but he was born and lives in Ein el Helweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. He has an MA in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Malta, and he has been working as a specialist in education, human rights and protection. Mahmoud co-directs the ‘Nakba Archive‘, an oral history project based on narratives provided by the first generation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and a grassroots documentary initiative ‘Lens on Lebanon’, formed during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in 2006. Mahmoud is a cofounder of the ‘Centre for Refugee Rights (Aidoun)’, which defends the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Barbara Haj-Hassan is Field Coordinator in Jordan for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is American and married to a Jordanian. She has a grown up family and has lived in Jordan for much of her married life. She has a keen interest in creative needlework and has a good eye for precise and exact stitching. Barbara is conscious of the difficulties suffered by Palestinian people in refugee camps in Jordan and appreciates communal need for a better understanding of their situation. She hopes that the embroidery the History Project generates will encourage a clearer awareness of the land of Palestine.
Basma Nazer is an Assistant Field Coordinator in Jordan for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian from Al-Khalil [Hebron], a Palestinian city south of Jerusalem. She was initially introduced to the Project when she was in Oxford completing her MBA degree. As a passionate Palestinian and Jordanian, she was thrilled to join the team and assist with co-ordination in Jordan, where she currently lives and works. Basma enjoys working with embroidery groups in Palestinian refugee camps. Every thread and stitch tells a story of a Palestinian city and together the embroidery helps us learn about the history and beauty of Palestine.
Jamila Al Za’anin is Translator for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian from Gaza, married, with a son, and lives in Dubai with her family. Her interests are in humanitarian issues and she has worked with UNRWA and Save the Children. Jamila studied at Oxford Brookes University in 2011 and was awarded an MA in Development and Emergency Practice. While in Oxford she became involved in establishing the Palestine History Tapestry Project. Jamila has a passion for Palestinian embroidery and welcomes the idea that people worldwide may come to see the history of Palestine in stitches. In 2012/13 she worked as Field Coordinator in Gaza before leaving for Dubai.
Team members in the UK
Jan Chalmers is the Founder and Project Coordinator of the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She and her husband lived in Gaza for two years, working in UNRWA’s maternal and child health programme. Between 2000 and 2012, she taught embroidery to South African village women, and supported them in creating a South African History Tapestry, which is now displayed permanently in the Parliament House in Cape Town. This experience has proved invaluable in developing the Palestine History Tapestry Project.
Judith English is Treasurer and Coordinating Team Member for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is a founder member and has helped coordinate the Projects activities. She had a career in Academic Psychiatry, and was Principal of St Hilda’s College, Oxford University for six years. Since retiring, she has pursued a longstanding interest in textile art, working in fabric collage. Her interest in Palestine developed through her husband’s involvement in surgical training programs in Gaza and the West Bank. She views the Palestine History Tapestry Project as a way to offer support to Palestinian women, recognizing that participation in creative activity has the potential to build self-esteem and strengthen resources for coping with stress.
Selma Harb, Coordinating Team Member for the Palestine History Tapestry Project in the UK. She is a Palestinian whose family is from Tayibe, in Western Palestine. She spent the first 15 years of her life in Libya, where her parents were academics. Selma lives in Oxford with her husband and their two children. She has a doctorate in the History of Islamic Medicine from the University of Oxford (St Hilda’s College), and practices as a pharmacist. She and other family members are active in promoting awareness of Palestinian embroidery and other artefacts by holding sales of work.
Liz Taylor, Coordinating Team Member for the Palestine History Project in the UK. She has spent the last forty years between the Middle East and the UK. She is married to an Egyptian, has taught sociology/anthropology at universities in the UK and Cairo, and also worked in development in Egypt, Palestine and the Yemen. Much of her development work has been concerned with issues relating to women and gender. Her work took her to Palestine during the first intifada and since then she has been passionately attached to the country. Now retired, she continues to live between Cairo and the UK. Liz’s prime interest in the History Tapestry project is in its developmental and creative potential.
Hemlata Bountra is Accountant for the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She is the Accountant for St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and has been Director of the Friends of Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum Oxford for a number of years. She joined the Palestine History Tapestry Project team in May 2013, following its registration as a charity.
Ian Steadman is an Advisor to the Palestine History Tapestry Project in the UK, and assists with fundraising. He was formerly Professor of Drama, Dean of Arts, and then Director of the University Foundation at the University of the Witwatersrand. Ian settled in the UK in 2003, when he was appointed Director of the University Foundation at the Open University. He directed the Development and Alumni Relations teams there and, subsequently, at Oxford Brookes University. He is now retired and undertakes voluntary work in Oxford while writing crime fiction under a pen-name.
Shelagh Weir is an Advisor to the Palestine History Tapestry Project in the UK. She is an internationally respected authority on Palestinian costume and embroidery. She did intensive field research in Palestine and Jordan between the late 1960s and 1980s. As curator for the Middle East at the Museum of Mankind, the former Ethnography Department of the British Museum, she organized several exhibitions on Palestinian culture. Her books discuss techniques, materials, and the regional and social symbolism of rural dress and embroidery, and include Palestinian Embroidery: Cross Stitch Patterns (1988), Palestinian Costume (1989), and Embroidery from Palestine (2006), all published by the British Museum.
Former team members
Samar Alhallaq was a Palestinian from Gaza, where she lived with her family. She had a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and worked with UNRWA. Samar liked the idea of spreading Palestine’s history worldwide through stitches made by Palestinian women. This inspired her to re-visit her interest in embroidery and to stitch the first official tapestry spacer “We are Steadfast”. Samar was killed along with her two young boys and her unborn child on July 20th 2014 during an Israeli attack on Gaza.
Yara Hawari is a British Palestinian PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, and research fellow at the Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem. Her research focus is on oral histories and collective memories. She is also a freelance writer, contributing frequently to The Independent and to The Electronic Intifada. Whilst in Jerusalem Yara linked with Al Amari women’s embroidery group and sourced sale items for fundraising.
Nizar Hawari is a Palestinian living in Haifa and working as a project manager with a not-for-profit government organisation. She sees the Palestine History Tapestry Project as a means by which the individual and collective identities and memories of Palestinian people can be preserved. Nizar attempted to form an embroidery group in Galilee.
Salem Al Qudwa is a Palestinian architect from Gaza, where he lives with his family. In February 2015 he became a full-time PhD design research student at the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University, UK. Salem assisted with Palestine History Tapestry Project exhibitions and with fundraising whilst studying in Oxford.
Helen Hawari is one of three founder members of the Palestine History Tapestry Project. She volunteered her services from 2011 to 2016. Helen is married to a Palestinian archaeologist; with whom she shares a keen interest in heritage preservation. Helen currently volunteers as a counsellor and mentor supporting women and girl refugees from Palestine and Syria.
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