Palestinian embroidery added to UNESCO cultural heritage list | News Arts and Culture

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – The United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) has added the art of traditional Palestinian embroidery to its list of intangible cultural heritage.

Wednesday SEO was made during the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, an annual gathering of hundreds of participants including representatives of the State, NGOs and cultural institutions.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh thanked UNESCO for its decision.

“This step is important and timely, in order to protect our Palestinian identity, heritage and narrative, from the occupation’s attempts to steal what it does not have,” Shtayyeh said. noted in a statement Wednesday.

Palestinian embroidery – or “tatreez” – is an artistic tradition passed down from generation to generation that involves hand-stitching patterns and designs with brightly colored thread onto clothing. The thobe, a traditional loose dress worn by Palestinian women, is the garment most often embroidered.

Although the practice originated in rural areas, the culture of needlework and the wearing of embroidered items is now common in cities and towns, with different designs representing the different regions of historic Palestine and can serve as an indicator. of the economic and marital status of the woman carrying this.

Palestinian women sew traditional Palestinian embroidery in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on June 14, 2016. [Ali Hashisho/Reuters]

Atef Abu Saif, the PA’s culture minister, said the ministry had worked for more than two years to get Palestinian embroidery included on the list.

“Heritage is the living reservoir of memory of our people on this earth. The preservation of the national cultural identity of our heritage is essential to the need to face an occupation that mobilizes all its capacities to eradicate and steal it,” he said in a statement.

“What our grandparents and ancestors created and left for us in a legacy of beauty, splendor and deep-rooted roots, is the best proof that we are the people of this land,” Abu Saif added.

Wednesday’s list described Palestinian embroidery as a “social and intergenerational practice.”

“Women gather in each other’s homes to practice embroidery and sewing, often with their daughters. Many women embroider as a hobby, and some produce and sell embroidered pieces to supplement their family’s income, either alone or in collaboration with other women.

The practice is passed down from mother to daughter and through formal training courses, the list adds.

UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with them – that communities, groups and, in certain cases, , individuals recognize as part of their heritage”. cultural heritage”.

The Representative List was first launched in 2008. In its 2003 convention, UNESCO defines the purpose of the list being “to ensure greater visibility” and to “raise awareness” of the importance of the nominated elements as representatives of intangible cultural heritage. Well-known items on the list include Chinese shadow theater, French gourmet meals, and South Korean kimchi.

Miss Universe controversy

The move comes days after Miss Universe 2021 contestants came under fire for what Palestinians said was appropriation of their culture during a tour of Israel ahead of the competition held in the southern city of Eilat on December 12.

During their visit to the predominantly Bedouin town of Rahat, the candidates posted images on social media of themselves wearing Palestinian embroidered thobes while making stuffed grape leaves. Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez irritated a lot when she subtitle his photos with a “day in the life of a Bedouin”, as well as a hashtag #VisitIsrael.

“Colonialism, racism, cultural appropriation, patriarchy, whitewashing, all in one place,” Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director for the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD) and political analyst at the Al-Shabaka think tank, noted.

The American militant group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) describe as “cultural theft” and an “attempt at self-indigenization”.

“Through posts sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Miss Universe contestants showed their commitment to Palestinian food, dress and dance traditions – but they called out this culture, and the land and people whose it is. came from, “Israelis.”

“Miss Universe’s messages demonstrate the importance of a cultural boycott of Israel. The Israeli government blatantly uses culture as a tool to glorify or camouflage its oppression of Palestinians, so we must collectively resist participating in it or giving it our attention,” the group said.

On Wednesday, a group of Palestinian women wearing embroidered thobes descended on al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to protest the Miss Universe incident.

“I’m wearing this thobe and will pass it on to my granddaughter. We are here today – we have history, civilization and roots,” Nadia Hassan Mustafa, 70, from Beitin village, told Al Jazeera.

Laila Ghannam, the governor of Ramallah, said that “this type of dress is part of our daily life and everyone who follows our culture knows it”.

“We don’t use it for fashion shows or for beauty queens. Our beauty is well known, it is in our mothers, in the mothers of martyrs and prisoners, in the beauty of oppressed women,” she told Al Jazeera.

Additional reporting by Hisham Daraghmeh in Ramallah.