1. Each of the dresses contains unique embroidered motifs that reflect aspects of the maker’s daily life, from plants, nature, food and architecture to religious vestments and political events.
2. This exhibition showcases how each region in Palestine had unique styles, cuts, stitches, motifs and fabrics that characterise the embroidered objects made in that area. For example, the vine leaf motif indicates a dress is from the Hebron area, due to the large number of grapes grown on the Hebron hills.
3. Palestinian girls would learn to embroider from as young as six or seven, taught by their mother or other female relatives. They would start by embroidering small pieces of fabric to practise for their eventual wedding garments that they would begin in their early teens.
4. Embroidery was used as a means of protest in 1987 during the First Intifada, a period of uprising against the Israeli occupation, where Palestinian flags and colours were banned. Instead, women made ‘Intifada dresses’ and embroidered motifs that expressed Palestinian nationalism in greys, blues and blacks.
5. Red is the colour with which Palestinian embroidery is most strongly associated, and different regions were known for particular shades of red. You will notice lots of red in the exhibition, alongside blues, greens and other colours.
6. Headdresses were also an important part of Palestinian dress. Apart from some ceremonial headdresses, worn only at weddings, most headdresses were worn by their owners every day. It symbolised that a woman was married and enabled her to keep her wealth close by at all times.
7. Today, many women embroider for organisations which provide them with income (although this can be precarious), as well as access to education and healthcare. For those living in refugee camps, embroidery can often provide a tangible connection to their homeland and its heritage.
8. Embroidery continues to be a significant part of daily life and cultural heritage in Palestine today. In the exhibition you can see artworks by five contemporary artists, who continue to draw upon the history of Palestinian embroidery in their practice today.
This exhibition has been organised by Kettle’s Yard in collaboration with the Whitworth, The University of Manchester. Curated by Rachel Dedman. Supported by The Orange Tree Trust.