Traditional Palestinian Dress Collection
July 11 2007


Talk politics to Hanan Karaman Munayyer and she’ll tell you about fabrics; especially, the rich tradition of Palestine craft and folk costumes which date back hundreds of years.

“These costumes can be a unifying force—Palestinian and Israeli politics will always be with us, and I think it overshadows the overwhelming beauty of folk traditions in this part of the world.”

A molecular biologist by profession, Munayyer may at first seem an odd advocate for Middle Eastern textiles, but a quick interview reveals that she was able to utilize her research skills to collect and classify the dozens of costumes, both male and female, that chronicle the marvelous skills of Palestinian design.  The exhibit, currently on display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, is divided into regions—Jerusalem, El Khalil, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jaffa/Lydda and Magdal/Gaza.  Each region reveals strikingly different patterns and weaving motifs, including the red and green ‘heaven and hell’ pattern.  These costumes were made of embroidered panels stitched onto the thob, the basic female dress of Palestine.  Many of them took more than a year to complete.

Residents of New Jersey, but of Palestinian descent, both Hanan and husband Farah, also a scientist, are founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation of West Caldwell, New Jersey, and are stewards of this, the largest collection of Palestinian embroidery in the United States.  Currently on display in the museum’s Main Floor Gallery, the show contains over forty embroidered dresses and ceremonial costumes, and runs through November 25, 2007.






Russell Ebeid

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