The Palestinian History Tapestry
The Palestinian History Tapestry uses the embroidery skills of Palestinian women to illustrate aspects of the land and peoples of Palestine – from Neolithic times to the present. In the past, Palestinian embroiderers have mainly used cross stitch (tatreez) and geometric designs to decorate dresses and other items. Although some of these designs have been used in parts of the Palestinian History Tapestry, the Tapestry is a further development of traditional Palestinian embroidery. It shows how the creativity and imagination of Palestinian embroiderers has been used to represent the complicated illustrative imagery required for a history tapestry.
The Palestinian History Tapestry was proposed in 2012 by Jan Chalmers. Jan had worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza and was familiar with Palestinian embroidery. She had also contributed to the creation of a 122-metre South African tapestry stitched by village women living in poverty on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Keiskamma Tapestry, as it is known, illustrates 300 years of history leading to the end of apartheid, and it is now on permanent display in the Parliament House in Cape Town.
Jan’s proposal for a Palestinian history tapestry led Palestinians and friends to work together to establish and develop the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. The work of the embroiderers has been funded by charitable donations, and from sales of Palestinian embroidery.
The first phase of the Project was completed in 2018. Formal launch events coincided with the 70th Anniversary of ‘The Nakba’ (‘The Catastrophe’) – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. This resulted in the forcible removal of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, and the creation of the State of Israel.
The Tapestry was launched in London on 11 December, the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 194. This resolved that:
“refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to.”
The names of Palestinians who have contributed to the Project are followed [in parentheses] by the names of the places in Palestine from which their families originate, as well as their current locations. Their involvement in the Palestinian History Tapestry is an expression of ‘sumud’ (steadfastness). Their work, done in collaboration with friends, will hopefully draw attention not only to Palestinian history and heritage, but also to the internationally declared right of Palestinians to return to their homes.
The Palestinian History Tapestry is owned by the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. Images and texts, copyright of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project.