Keeping you informed about Palestinian cultural heritage research, and our work here at the Archive

Keeping you informed about Palestinian cultural heritage research, and our work here at the Archive

Monday, June 23, 2014

Leichhardt Friends of Hebron Festival, Sydney

Several Archive staff and volunteers met up at Leichhardt Friends of Hebron's event last Saturday at Leichhardt Town Hall:

At the Archive we sincerely respect the work Leichhardt Friends of Hebron are doing. Here's some info from their website:
"Leichhardt is a suburb in the Inner West of Sydney, Australia. In 2007 a group of concerned people formed the group Leichhardt Friends of Hebron to build partnerships with local NGOs in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and assist with project support for the people of Hebron and the south Hebron hills. 
"The Friends of Hebron aim to:
  • Work in Leichhardt to promote human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent United Nations conventions and declarations and respect for international law in the occupied Palestinian lands;
  • Work in Leichhardt to raise awareness of human rights and humanitarian issues relevant to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands;
  • Raise money for vital community projects in the city of Hebron and surrounding areas;
  • To work with other municipalities in Australia in building relationships and partnerships with Palestinian communities; and
  • Establish a sister city relationship between the Leichhardt Municipal Council and the City of Hebron in the occupied Palestinian lands.
"Friends of Hebron welcomes new members. Membership is open to all residents of Leichhardt, the Inner West and wider Sydney community who support the aims stated above. Contact Leichhardt Friends of Hebron at"

For several years now Leichhardt Friends of Hebron has held a Palestinian festival during Refugee Week. This year the festival was held on Saturday 21st June, 2014:

"our fantastic plans for the day include the exhibition,  our ceramics and stalls, our forum, our film, our food and more…. This will be another great event, drawing attention to the world’s longest standing refugee situation and one of the most unjust.  After 66 years Palestinian refugees are still unable to return to their homes. 
"All money raised will, as always, go to support our kindergarten projects  at Umm al Khair, at Khashem al Daraj and especially, Tel Rumeida, as well as our newly identified project in the community of Dkaika, in the Southern tip of the West Bank."
We arrived just after 2pm, and the town hall was bustling:

We greeted other friends and event organizers, and made lots of new friends, especially over discussions of Palestinian embroidery - from the Women In Hebron Group and one of the Bethlehem groups - and Palestinian fair trade products, about which we'll put up another post soon.

Being a fundraiser we wanted to spend as much money as we could, so we had fun wandering around the stalls purchasing Palestinian sweets, zaatar, olive oil soaps, books, posters and raffle tickets:

We also did some real work, purchasing two books for  the Palestine Costume Archive's Research Library and two more kaffiyas from the Herbawi factory in Hebron for the Archive's costume collection:

We spent lots of time in the photographic exhibition "Families Interrupted":

"Through a series of anonymous portraits, this exhibition captures the reality of the many thousands of Palestinian families who are forced to live in the shadows by the Israeli Citizenship Law. By lifting the thin veil of anonymity that envelops them, the images give insights into how the ban turns them into families interrupted, struggling to lead a normal life together. By photographing them in their personal spaces, it offers glimpses of their day-to-day human existence as families."

We'll post more about the exhibition in a later post - apart from being a good exhibition the organizers did a great job installing it on a non existent budget and not even a power point! - but for now here's some info via the exhibition about that law:
"The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (2003) bans family unification where one spouse is an Israeli citizen (in practice almost all of whom are Palestinian citizens) and the other a resident of the OPT (excluding Jewish settler living in the OPT). 

"Minor exceptions to the ban were introduced in 2005 allowing the Interior Ministry to make special exceptions to the ban, including in cases where the husband is over 35 years of age or the wife over 25, in special medical or work cases, and for children under the age of 14 to live with the parent inside Israle. An additional amendment in 2007 expanded the ban to include citizens and residents of Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In accordance with the law, a cabinet decision added further restrictions in 2008 affecting residents of the Gaza Strip.
"Although the law was originally enacted as a temporary order, its validity has been repeatedly extended by the Knesset making it in effect a permanent law. Thousands of Palestinian families have been affected by the law, forced to split apart, move abroad or live in Israel in fear of constant deportation."

By now it was time for the forum “Restoring hope through international law – is the right of return for Palestinian refugees necessary for peace?”:

"Our speakers will discuss the sometimes controversial, internationally recognized right of refugees to return to areas from which they have fled or been forced to leave. Should refugees be compensated  for what they have lost? Should they be allowed to return home? Should they be allowed to repossess their properties or should they instead receive compensation and support for resettlement? What if their homes are gone? Have been demolished to make way for an airport? Refugee rights derive from a number of legal sources, including customary international law, international humanitarian law (governing rights of civilians during war), and human rights law"

 The speakers were Samah Sabawi and Dr Marcelo Svirsky:
"Samah Sabawi is an Australian-Palestinian writer, playwright an political analyst with years of experience and special expertise in human rights. Samah was born in Palestine but her family was displaced as a result of Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967. She lived with her family in a refugee camp, moved into the Arabian Gulf and later migrated to Australia. She still has family living under Israeli siege in Gaza. Her work reflects her passion about her heritage and her desire for a peaceful resolution that is based on justice and respect of human rights for all.  
"She is a policy advisor to the Palestinian policy network AlShabaka and has formerly served as executive director and media spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR) and as public advocate for Australians for Palestine. 
"Dr Marcelo Svirsky is a political scientist who works at the School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong, where he  teaches subjects in International Studies.  He grew up in Argentina but moved to Israel where he completed his education at Technion and Haifa Universities. As an activist, Marcelo has long been involved  in the Palestinian struggle for peace with justice. Later this year, Marcelo will walk from Sydney to the Federal Parliament in Canberra to raise awareness about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, (BDS), in Australia.  
"His research interests are primarily invested on theories and the practice of political activism, revolutionary action, and social transformation. His current research and works in progress include a special issue of the journal Settler Colonial Studies and ‘The Ecology of Interculturalism in Israel’
It was good to have the opportunity to listen to Samah again - we'd last encountered her at the Human Rights in Palestine that we attended at the Australian National University in Canberra last year.

Afterwards we sat up the front to watch the Palestinian fashion parade.

The Palestine Costume Archive's Education Officers often lend a hand with events like this worldwide. They are usually either run by Palestinian diaspora communities or by activist groups who borrow a few garments from their local Palestinian community.  Sometimes we are asked to help with the whole thing, in which case we usually put up one of our small traveling educational displays about Palestinian costume and embroidery at the event. We then also arrange with the local community for a few families to bring some treasured embroidered items in to be included in the fashion parade, which we help identify and provide historical background on.

In the case of last Saturday we were just there with and as friends and not taking part.  But in just being part of the audience we were also fulfilling our role of observing and documenting what cultural knowledge remains in Palestinian diaspora communities. We were looking forward to seeing what type of embroidered garments would be thought important to include by the local community, and what might be said about each garment.

When we'd ask for information about the fashion parade, Leichhardt Friends of Hebron organizers had told us the owner of the dresses loaned for the fashion parade lived in Sydney, but was very unwell and unable to attend.  Which was probably why the text read out during the fashion parade was a bit disjointed and there was no descriptive information at all about the actual dresses on the stage (for example, the only pattern mentioned was the saru, but not a single dress on the stage contained it).

But being a bit short on specific costume details didn't stop the resulting event from being a lot of fun. Kudos to everyone involved, from the MCs

to Samah

to the last minute models (both Palestinian and the many non Palestinians)

and especially Jamal Elayan (who not only burst into song but started the dabke)

 what an amazing half hour we all had, both on the stage and in the audience. What came across is the tremendous love Palestinians have for their culture, in all it's forms. We're so glad we took this short video - watch it and you'll see what we mean :)

We had to leave before the final film of the event, but just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Leichhardt Friends of Hebron for such a wonderful day.  We understand how much this event takes to organize.  We truly do, and we stand amazed by what you've achieved with it over the years.  Keep up the great work in Hebron. And thank you :)

PS:  for Archive staff and Educational Officers:

Here's a quick test: if you had been asked up on the stage at the last minute and these Palestinian garments were presented, what would you have told the audience about them?  We're looking for:
  • estimate of date 
  • pre 48 village region / post 48 country / refugee camp / embroidery co-op
  • fabrics and embroidery thread id
  • patterns
Drop us a line at the usual email address and we'll add in the right details as they come in :)

Some responses now in:

Okay 13 of you have responded so far so we can update the photos below.

  • 10 points to those of you who replied that you can't confirm date / age of garment / fabrics etc without examining the garments.
  • 10 points for everyone who thought all the garments were post 1948 except possibly number 1, but noted you can't confirm it's date without examining the garment
1) This one was too easy lol. 10 points to everyone who identified the dress Samah Sabawi chose to wear as a classic "six branch" style.

10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "Ramallah" style
10 points to everyone who identified the base fabric as (if pre1948) "probably black / indigo linen" or if post 48, "possibly rayon or synthetic".
10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery stitch as cross stitch
10 points for identifying the type of thread as "probably cotton".
10 points to everyone who identified the central motif as a "branches of birds" variation.

2) 10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "shawal" style

10 points to everyone who thought the fabric is "possibly velvet" but you can't confirm base fabric without sighting / examining the dress.
10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery as cross stitch and couching, and the
10 points to everyone who noted the type of thread as "probably cotton".
10 points to everyone who identified the motifs as "modern interpretations" - with the exception of the very top of the qabbeh we can't identify any motifs.

3)  10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "shawal" style

10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery as cross stitch.
10 points to everyone who identified the motifs as "modern interpretations" - we can't identify any motifs.

4)  10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "interesting" lol.

10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "a flag dress" style - we don't think it actually is, but it was a great guess. By linking with this topic you could have raised the subject of political textiles

5 6 7 (on the right side of the photo):

10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "shawal" style. 
10 points to everyone who identified the base fabric as "probably black linen".
10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "probably 1980s".
10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery as cross stitch.
Extra 10 points to everyone who expanded their identification to discuss how multicoloured shaded threads were popular in the 1970s and early 1980s
10 points to everyone who remembered to mention that these dresses originally had an accompanying triangular embroidered scarf.

10 points to everyone who identified this garment as a style popular in refugee camps in Jordan in the 1980s.
10 points to everyone who identified the base fabric as "probably synthetic or rayon".
10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery as cross stitch.
10 points if you noted the type of thread as "probably cotton".
10 points to everyone who identified the motifs as floral designs that originally date from the 1940s
Extra 10 points if you remembered there is a very similar one in the Archive's collection.

10 points to everyone who identified this garment as "Bethlehem" style
Extra 10 points to everyone who went further in their id and explained a bit about the "malak"style
10 points to everyone who identified the base fabrics as "post 48 versions of Bethlehem fabrics ... possibly synthetic velvet".
10 points to everyone who identified the embroidery stitch as couching.
10 points if you noted the type of thread as "possibly cotton and lurex".

Get back to us to confirm your total :)

More Info:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tatreez Cafe, London

When the Palestine Costume Archive first started, in the early 1980s, if you wanted a Palestinian meal anywhere in the Palestinian diaspora you went to family or friends' homes.  But wonderfully these days Palestinian cafes and restaurants are springing up all over the diaspora. Archive friends and volunteers regularly ask about them, so we thought we might review some of our favorites.

Let's start with the UK:

Archive staff have several favorites including Habibi Restaurant in Coventry and two in London: Maramia Cafe and Tatreez Cafe.  We're going to talk about Tatreez Cafe today.  We chose to review it for two reasons. First, it's name :)  The word tatreez describes traditional Palestinian embroidery. We loved that the cafe uses this "cross stitched" logo:

Second, because Tatreez Cafe is a designed space, specifically created to evoke Palestinian culture and landscape within a 21st century urban environment.  Does it succeed?

It certainly does :) It mixes the modern industrial world (brick walls, burnished metal panels, metal air ducts, etc)

Source: courtesy Relic Interior London

with echoes of older traditions (wooden tables and chairs, handwritten blackboard menu,

while components like the form and colour of the huge pizza oven

Source: courtesy Relic Interior London

the shape of the vertical decorative wooden panels and the earth coloured tiled floor

Source: courtesy Relic Interior London

as well as these cotton table decorations

 evokes the Palestinian village landscape. Tatreez Cafe was designed by Relic Interiors London.

Interestingly Relic Interiors posted one of their mood boards for the project on their website:

Source: courtesy Relic Interiors London

We really enjoyed going through this and checking off inspiration points against the final cafe design. We think Relic Interiors interpreted their client's ideas really well.

Hang on a moment, you say, one of the embroidery panels in that mood board looks rather familiar. It is indeed. The blue piece at the top towards the centre is a detail of a jumbo cushion embroidered by the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza. Dr Fathi Arafat donated it to our museum. The image has probably been swiped from Flikr, even though we have copyright / all rights reserved stated on those images. Ah well, we don't mind. Perhaps as a return favor Relic Interiors won't mind us using their photographs of Tatreez in this post :) (with source info / links of course)

Anyway, back to our review. We think Relic Interiors did a great job. The Palestinian village feel is enhanced by the use of free hanging black and white poster size photos printed on to fabric of pre 1948 Palestinian village and bedu life.

Source: courtesy voyagingknave on TripAdvisor

In his TripAdvisor review voyagingknave identifies these "massive photos on tapestry" as the work of "Palestine's first female photographer".  Some look like they are from the Matson Collection / American Colony Photographers to us, but they may well be Karimeh Abbud's (the "Lady Photographer" who was the first female professional photographer in Palestine) as much new information has just been uncovered about her. We'll put up a separate post sometime.  

Hopefully the tapestry photo panels at Tatreez Cafe have labels somewhere providing details of the photographer / date / which aspect of Palestinian society they reveal (the bedu desert lifestyle being very different from those of villagers, whose world Tareez Cafe has tried so hard to evoke).

Source: courtesy Relic Interior London

A private room provides a further exhibition space:

Source: courtesy voyagingknave on TripAdvisor

Tatreez Cafe is quite new - it opened last year, with a soft opening mid year followed by a great party on 27 September 2013:

Owner Hana Haj Ahmad posted this invitation:
"It has been quite a journey full of strong determination & hard work from the start of the visualisation of Tatreez Café up till our opening in June this year. And with the help of our lovely family + talented friends, Tatreez was put together, in style! 
"Whilst we were in soft opening mode, we have been working harder and harder to add our unique finishing touch to our beautiful space. Now the time has come to officially celebrate all this hard work, therefore, we invite you to celebrate with us our official opening with a bang! We will be opening our back mezzanine room, outdoor balcony + launching our full brand. We are presenting a photographic celebration of Palestinian embroidery 'tatreez', people + culture.  Thanks to our dear friend Daniel Junsei who has helped us immensely to put this together. 
"We will also be hosting + highlighting Gilgamesh Publishing house’s recent book ‘Jerusalem, Palestine + Jordan’ by Hisham Khatib who has presented a unique collection of art and printed works, covering the 400-year period of ottoman rule in the region.
The evening will host unique performances that will put you right in the mood to compliment our lovely setting: 
A Middle Eastern band, lead by the amazing ABDEL SALAM KHEIR, that will take you on an authentic 'tarab' journey, performing and singing the most beautiful Arab classics by the likes of giants Umm Kalthoum, Abdel Halim Hafez & Asmahan. Experience enchanting 'tarab', a music that was at its pinnacle in the 50's and 60's, a style of music that is rare nowadays though can still be revived by the likes of Abdel Salam Kheir. 
YAZ FENTAZI: The Guardian has described Yaz his compositions as having “breadth and atmosphere, and his oud soloing, which recalls the drive and dynamism of world Oud star Anouar Brahem, is often stunning." He was invited to perform record and tour with the Master Drummers of Africa, Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin), Natacha Atlas, Transglobal Underground,Peter Ind, and the main composer of Fantazia Band and more. 
ERIC FORD: Drummer Eric Ford has played a huge variety of music including fusion with Hadrien Feraud (of John McLaughlin's band), Latin jazz with Irvin Acao (of Irakere), soul with Ruby Turner, contemporary jazz with Duncan Eagles' Partikel, Nicolas Meier and many others, as well as theatre shows, pop, rock, blues and much else! 
ZAD ADDA: Zad Adda is a virtuoso bass player who grew up with a mix of cultures including North African music, jazz and flamenco. He studied jazz at the Academy of Marseille and he’s the leader and composer of the Beessap Band, based in London. 
You can only imagine the result when these masters combine! Book your diaries and come join our celebrations!
We've quoted this in full because it gives a great idea of what Tatreez Cafe is all about - which is Palestinian culture in all it's forms. Music continues to be a highlight of the cafe, both in terms of special events and "just happens to be playing while you're eating" events.

Source: courtesy voyagingknave on TripAdvisor

But the cafe offers so much more than that.  Rana B. Baker got it absolutely write when she reviewed the cafe on Facebook a few months back:
"There's something about this place which really draws me into it; the atmosphere, staff, food, and music all converge to deliver a unique culinary experience, and, with a book in hand, one can add an intellectual flavour to it..."
Another Facebook reviewer Merce Benet described the cafe as:
"a really special and unique place in the World. Palestinian pure roots in a radically contemporany soul. Genuine fresh mediterranean food in a jazzy and artistic atmosphere."
We were not at all surprised when PalFest began hosting events there.

And then there's the food and drink.

Source: courtesy Yeah Hackney

The cafe serves a small vegetarian menu which is also turning out to be a hit with patrons with food allergies (Simonetta on November 11th, 2013: "Lovely restaurant with very friendly and helpful staff. The food was gorgeous!!! First class ingredients, everything fresh… I am a coeliac, and they made every effort to provide me with gluten free food").  Sarah Lewis and Josh Loeb explain more about the menu in their 14 October 2013 post about the cafe:
"North West London may be the traditional destination for Middle Eastern eats in our city, but last month saw the official opening in Stoke Newington of Tatreez, a Palestinian eatery serving Levantine and vegetarian food. 
"Candlelit and with an exposed brick interior and a selection of (mostly Lebanese) wines and beers, the cafe offers a menu that evidently has an experimental local crowd in mind.
It eschews well-known staples like hummus and falafel in favour of introducing diners to other less famous but equally tasty and authentic Levantine classics such as mana’eesh, a middle eastern style pizza baked in a large white stone oven with toppings such as vegetables with labneh (sour yogurt) and spinach, onion and lemon (mostly £5). 
"And no Palestinian restaurant worth its zataar would be complete without foul (fava beans and chickpeas mashed with garlic and lemon and fresh bread, priced £6.50). The makdoos, a pickled aubergine dish, is delicate and delicious, and the food has a fresh and healthy taste.  Owner Hana Haj Ahmad says the dishes are made according to her mother’s recipes ... Most fun is the jalab, a date-syrup and rosewater drink with pine nuts."
Source: courtesy Hackney Citizen blog

 Ellen Hardy from TimeOut also enjoyed her meal:
"After a bowl of Palestinian olives and a couple of easy-drinking Lebanese beers, we had tart makdous – pickled baby aubergines stuffed with walnuts and chilli – fluffy, creamy and warm full-stewed chickpeas, and crisp manaeesh flatbread baked with a cheese and za’atar thyme mix"
Martina O writes in her review on yelp:
"Animated owner Hana Haj Ahmad served us mana'eesh, a middle eastern style pizza baked in the afformentioned massive stone oven with  labneh, spinach, onion and lemon toppings, we also had the makdoos, a pickled aubergine dish, which is delicious and fried cauliflower,  a uniquely distinctive dish which was a favourite of ours."
Rana B. Baker  found "the thyme and cheese manakeesh are particularly delicious." while Nick Saltmarsh found the fava beans "Some of the best-cooked fava beans I've tasted. And I've tried a few!". Finally Merce Benet suggests patrons "Try the palestinian Za'atar with bread and olive is just unforgetable! Loved it!"

Source: courtesy Tatreez Cafe Facebook page

The Middle Eastern alcohol selection has also provided popular. Ellen Hardy tried "a honeyed Palestinian white wine, but there are also some excellent Lebanese wines", while one yelp reviewer notes: "Top tip, (if you like wine) try the Lebanese wine, as it's one of the most delectable wines that has ever made the journey down my oesophagus."

Reviewer stuart round also notes on Time Out that the cafe is dog friendly.

Tatreez Cafe comes highly recommended from us - it's a tiny, welcoming corner of Palestine and London is richer for it's existence :)

More Info: