Palestinian Embroidery – online talk

This Saturday, 21 November, OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury will give an online talk on Embroidery from Palestine: Disciplining the Past to Craft the Future. He will speak about his experiences working to document and understand certain techniques of embroidery and rural textile traditions from Palestine. He will focus on the techniques themselves, the people he has worked with, and some of the ideas he has developed along the way.In 2018 he worked on updating the Palestinian textile collection catalogue at the British Museum. Some of this work was under the supervision of our Chair, Helen Wolfe.

OmarJoseph examining textiles from the British Museum collection. ©British Museum

“The British Museum’s Palestinian textile collection constitutes one of the largest textile collections at the Museum, with over 1000 pieces, and is one the largest and most extensive in the world. The BM’s collection is unique in so far as it contains men’s, women’s and children’s dress (garments, hats, headdresses and face covers), cosmetic pouches and soft furnishings that roughly cover the period over the last 150 years. Most significantly, it contains day-to-day dress of both genders that is often missing in other notable collections.” – British Museum website.

“The Palestinian textile collection is partly made up of two missionary collections which were acquired by the British Museum in the 1960s; the Church Missionary Society (CMS), and the Jerusalem and East Mission (JEM). These missions collected dress and textiles based on certain orientalist beliefs and historical misconceptions that regarded the 19th century styles of rural Palestine as unchanged since biblical times.” OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury.

During his time at the British Museum OmarJoseph examined the stitching used on the textiles in great detail. He concluded that a particular motif from the south Palestine region (irq-il-loz – almond branch) was not embroidered with stem stitch as had previously been understood, but was in fact produced using a couching technique. He has recently co-authored the book Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual.

Knotted zigzag joining stitch on silk taffeta and indigo dyed cotton – detail from a village woman’s coat (jillayeh) from the upper Galilee in the north of Palestine, early 20th century. © OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury

This talk is hosted by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. It will take place at 1600 GMT and is free, but advance registration is required.

This event is part of an eight-part monthly series entitled “Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future,” an initiative of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada. There are several talks featuring Asian textiles. For more information click here. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list, please email Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic Art and Culture, Royal Ontario Museum.


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