Get hooked on traditional Palestinian embroidery

UAE-based artist Joanna Barakat is set to give a class on traditional stitching techniques. (Arab News)
Updated 20 September 2018
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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.


Rare Ottoman dish to go on sale at Sotheby’s London

A rare piece of Iznik pottery is going on sale at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Rare Ottoman dish to go on sale at Sotheby’s London

LONDON: An exceptionally rare, museum-quality piece of Iznik pottery is to go on sale at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday.

The Debbane Charger (circa 1480) is set to go on sale. Sotheby’s London

The Debbane Charger, or dish (circa 1480), one of the most important pieces of Iznik pottery held in private hands, represents a significant discovery in the field of Ottoman art.
Produced during the reign of Mehmet II, the piece belongs to the earliest group of Iznik, characterized by an intense, inky, blue-black coloring which reflects the embryonic stage of firing control two decades before a brighter cobalt blue was achieved.
The charger is a lost “sibling” to four other large dishes, all of which are held in museums, including the Louvre in Paris. They are described in Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby’s book “Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey,” where it was suggested they were used in court banquets. Though not identical, they display a number of shared elements — the huge scale, central floret, and use of both Rumi and Hatayi motifs, the names given to the rigorously executed arabesque decoration and Chinoiserie floral scrolls respectively.
The charger was formerly in the collection of bibliophile and businessman Max Debbane, who patronized many leading cultural institutions in the town of his birth, Alexandria in Egypt, as well as serving as president of the Archaeological Society.
Opportunities to acquire works of Iznik pottery from this earliest period are very rare, with the most significant examples dating back to Sotheby’s sales in 1993 and 1997.
Further highlights of the Wednesday’s sale include Indian paintings from the estate of Joe and Helen Darrion and a costume album that presents a comprehensive catalogue of the costumes of Ottoman Turkey in the 19th century.

The sale also includes Indian artworks. Sotheby’s London