Meet Syrian refugee girl Bana Al-Abed who starred at the Oscars

Syrian girl Bana Al-Abed on the red carpet at the recent Oscars ceremony is Los Angeles. (Twitter: @AlabedBana)
Updated 06 March 2018

Meet Syrian refugee girl Bana Al-Abed who starred at the Oscars

CAIRO: You might have missed her, but young Syrian girl Bana Al-Abed appeared on stage at the Academy Awards this week, drawing global attention.
The 8-year-old Aleppo girl shared the stage alongside rapper Common and singer Andra Day during a performance at the Oscars on Sunday.
She was invited along with nine other activists by Day and Common to take part in the song “Stand Up For Something” from the movie “Marshall”, which was nominated for Best Original Song.
She posted a photo of herself on the Red Carpet on her Twitter page (@AlabedBana), and shared another photo of herself on stage, with a plea to stand up for the people of Syria.

“Dear #Oscars, tonight we must stand up for the children who are dying in Syria. A child is a child, whether in America or Syria,” she wrote.
Bana rose to fame when she tweeted in 2016 of the bombing of Aleppo, during the country’s ongoing civil war, with the help of her English-speaking mother.
She simply tweeted “I need peace.” Soon after, more tweets were sent out telling the tale of a young girl and her family trapped in eastern Aleppo.

Get hooked on traditional Palestinian embroidery

Updated 20 September 2018

Get hooked on traditional Palestinian embroidery

  • Joanna Barakat gives workshops on Palestinian embroidery
  • She talks about the significance and history of the craft

DUBAI: I just finished cross-stitching my first Gaza cypress tree motif, begun around the kitchen table of the UAE-based artist Joanna Barakat, who gives workshops on Palestinian embroidery, or tatreez. Next up: Motifs from Hebron, Ramallah and Jaffa.

Until I took her class, which she’ll be teaching at Tashkeel in Dubai next weekend, I hadn’t paid much attention to the stitches that adorn the region’s fabrics. Now, I read them like signposts for clues as to where they’re from.

Barakat, who was born in Jerusalem, begins with a talk on the history of tatreez, showing us photos from different regions before 1948 and passing around examples of her grandmother’s work.

We learn how embroidery was more elaborate for weddings, how women incorporated their environment in their work — Jaffa, for instance, has an orange motif — and how it reflected their status. Bedouin women stitched a blue hem on their dresses, adding red motifs if they remarried. “Each tribe had its own style and its own way of dressing to express their identity,” Barakat says.

The Nakba in 1948 almost killed off the tradition, as women lost access to the region’s textile factories. “Everybody was traumatized,” she says. “You had a good decade there where almost nothing came out.”

But their resilience resurfaced in their craft, earning them a living in refugee camps. “It became a symbol of resistance and empowerment.”

In that way, Barakat uses embroidery in her paintings: in one self-portrait, a needle punctures her chest on the canvas, “trying to stitch my own Palestinian identity into me,” she explains.

Her workshop may have stitched some of that into me as well. After giving us our own cross-stitch kits, with Aida fabric, green threads and cypress tree patterns, she shows us how to stitch, correcting us patiently as we go. As they might say in crochet class, I’m hooked.

Joanna Barakat’s workshops on Palestinian embroidery are at Tashkeel in Dubai on Sept. 29 and Dec. 8 for $73, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with a one-hour break, lunch included. Email [email protected] for more information.