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Homage to Ethnically Cleansed Villages

When I design a tatreez piece for Badan, I begin by exploring the historical context of motifs then designing them in a way that carries a poetic meaning. Designing these wooden chests was no different. To create them, I researched the history of villages that had been ethnically cleansed since 1948. It was a heavy experience to do this all while watching ethnic cleansing happening in Gaza in real time. However, when there is too much grief that it has no where to go, it has to alchemize into something. I chose to transform this pain into beautiful pieces of art that carry much more meaning than meets the eye.

In our Tatreez Wooden Chest: Homage to Ethnically Cleansed Villages, there are four motifs curated. They each pay homage to regions ethnically cleansed (fully or partially) due to the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.

The three main areas are: Lifta, Beit Jibrin, and Bir Saba. They are accompanied by a fourth motif from Ramallah (still in existence), which is a region that has played a vital role in the preservation of tatreez since 1948. This specific motif is included to signify Palestinian perseverance in the face of erasure.

We wouldn't be able to pay homage to all of these areas and due them justice without exploring their vibrant history. This post will give you a snapshot. As you read, I invite you to place yourself in the shoes of someone from each village or tribe in 1948. Imagine what it would have been like to have lived and witnessed history unfold before your eyes in real time.

I then invite you to not only learn but encourage conversations in your circles about the current ethnic cleansing happening in Palestine. We are not only vessels of history but carry the mantles to change the future.

Let's begin with:



Photo (left) taken by Rameen Photohrapy and includes a motif from Lifta titled "Discs." Photo (right) is of a chest panel from a Lifta ghabany dress.


Lifta is perhaps one of the most prominent villages in Palestine that has shaped tatreez, particularly its influence on Jerusalem that was in close proximity. Lifta was an incredibly wealthy town that had access to trade routes to both sell and gather materials for thobes (Palestinian dresses). They set trends and styles for other villages with their creative play on fabrics and thread colors, so dealers in Jerusalem were happy to cater to them.

"Villagers from Lifta had substantial land holdings and also worked in the city. This exposure to modern life gave Lifta women a taste for urban life, and they were the first in the area to incorporate silk fabric into their traditional costumes." —Widad Kawar

These styles also spilled over to Jerusalem where we see much influence from Lifta in Jerusalem dresses.

Lifta is now a deserted village. It was mostly destroyed in 1948 by Zionist troops with the exception of a few buildings, including the village mosque, its club, and some houses. The ethnic cleansing of Lifta began on December 28th 1947 when six people were gunned down in an act of terror in the village coffee house. After this, its population was repeatedly terrorized into leaving. By February 1948, the village was completely emptied and all of its remaining inhabitants were trucked to East Jerusalem. Currently, Lifta is a part of the suburbs of West Jerusalem.


Beit Jibrin

Photo (right) taken by Rameen Photohrapy and includes a motif from Beit Jibrin titled "Basha's Tent." Photo (left) is of a Jellayeh dress example from Beit Jibrin.


Beit Jibrin is a village located near Hebron. It is 2 miles from Deir Nakhas–another village depopulated after 1948.

Their dress styles were unique in their heavily embroidered chest panels and use of appliqué in the skirt area. Their village also had main centers for weaving fabric and thread.

In 1948, the inhabitants of Beit Jibrin were completely ethnically cleansed due to a military assault by Zionist troops. The village was mostly destroyed with the exception of the village mosque, an unidentified shrine, and a few remaining houses. Many of its inhabitants ended up in refugee camps around Bethlehem and Hebron, and some in 'Aqbit Jabir nearby Jericho. Many of these refugees were cleansed again to Amman's refugee camps after the 1967 war.


Bir Saba

Photo (left) taken by Rameen Photohrapy and includes a motif from Bir Saba titled a "Moon." Photo (right) is of a chest panel example from a Bir Saba dress. 


Bir Saba is located in Al-Naqab desert and is comprised of a large population of nomadic Arab Bedouin tribes. In 1946, the Palestinian population of Al-Naqab area was about 90,000, spread over 96 different Bedouin tribes.

"Their livelihood relied on camel transport of trade supplies across the arid lands from Gaza across to Egypt and to the Arabian Peninsula. They lived a mainly pastoral, nomadic life relying on trading in livestock in the market. Markets which also offered silver jewelry, embroideries, and woven carpets." —Widad Kawar

Since the inhabitants of Bir Saba and Al-Naqab desert are considered Bedouins and not villagers, their dress styles were unique. The placement of motifs, color of embroidery on the skirt area, amount of coins on the face veil, and head coverings were all elements that could indicate which tribe a Bedouin woman was from as well as her marital status and often economic background. The women of Bir Saba not only created beautiful dresses but created ones that were unique and different than the rest of Palestine.

In 1948, 80% of the tribes from this area were driven out to refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The remaining tribes were regrouped into 19 tribal confederations and reallocated to four new settlements in the desert of "Israel." About half refused to live in these settlements and formed their own “unrecognized” small villages, without any municipal services.



Photo (right) taken by Rameen Photohrapy and includes a motif from Ramallah titled "Disc of Feathers." Photo (left) is of a dress example from Ramallah.


Ramallah is a city located in central Palestine. Pre and post 1948, Ramallah played a huge role in the practice of tatreez. Ramallah women were known to be fashionable. They wore lightly embroidered dresses on a daily basis and more heavily embroidered dresses for festivities and occasions. They were amongst the first to grab new fabrics, thread colors, and materials that were new to the market and immediately incorporated them into their dresses.

After the exclusion of Palestinians in 1948, Ramallah women were amongst the first to begin and join stitching collectives to preserve tatreez and earn a livable wage. They took their tatreez with them, even in exile.

Ramallah and most of its nearby villages are still in existence today with a majority Palestinian population. It is also a huge hub for tatreez production.

Ramallah shows us the potential for tatreez in our current day. It reminds us of the vibrancy of villages that have been ethnically cleansed, and calls us to imagine what these villages would have been like today had the expulsion in 1948 not happened. Ramallah also teaches us resilience and the importance of preservation in our crafts.

We pay homage to the three regions that have been de-populated. We remember them, and we vow to continue our preservation work to uplift what exists and bring back to life what was been erased from existence.

We are the culture barriers of our times.



Explore our two Tatreez Wooden Chests here: Tatreez Wooden Chest: Homage to Ethnically Cleansed Villages and Tatreez Wooden Chest: Ramallah Disc of Feathers.


Research Sources: Traditional Palestinian Costume by Hanan Karaman Munayyer, and Threads of Identity by Widad Kamel Kawar.

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