8th Annual Report, June 2019- June 2020
During March 2020 the world was put into turmoil by the pandemic covid-19 infection. All Palestinian History Tapestry Project (PHT) embroidery groups are affected, but none as much as those in Gaza, for whom it has come in addition to the fierce Israeli/Egyptian siege threatening their survival. The PHT Project wishes strength, courage and safety to all those involved in its work.
In spite of these uncertainties, the Project has continued to pursue its aims. These were modified in September 2019 to reflect discussion at the 7th AGM. The primary aims and objectives for phase 2 of the PHT Project are:
- To record an insufficiently appreciated history of Palestine and Palestinians.
- To extend the traditional craft of the Palestinian needlewomen to illustrate this history.
- To generate income for Palestinian needlewomen and their families
PHT receives award from the largest Palestinian organisation in Britain
The Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB) was founded in 2000 to promote the preservation of Palestinian heritage and collective memory. Every year, it issues awards for the preservation of Palestinian heritage in music, fashion, food and embroidery. The Palestinian History Tapestry Project was delighted that it had been awarded the PFB’s 2019 Palestinian Heritage Award for Palestinian Embroidery. Dr Hafiz Alkarmi presented the award to Jan Chalmers (co-chair of the PHT Project) at PFB’s Palfest on 15 February 2020. In thanking PFB, Jan stressed how important it was to the Palestinian History Tapestry Project that its work had been endorsed by the largest Palestinian organisation in Britain.
Exhibitions and talks
PHT was exhibited at Olympia, London, on 5-7 July 2019. The exhibition – Palexpo – organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa was the first time that all of the embroidered panels had been displayed together, and it generated a great deal of public interest.
To accompany a conference at the British Library on 30 November to mark 70 years since the creation of the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), PHT was invited to show a loop video of the tapestry in total, and to display the original UNRWA panel stitched by Shaymaa Abu-Hasanain in Gaza.
From 17-23 February 2020, 40 PHT panels were exhibited in the Lansdown Hall and Gallery in the textile town of Stroud in Gloucestershire. The exhibition was visited by over 500 people, some from as far afield as France, London, Totnes, Derby, Edinburgh and Manchester. On the opening night of the exhibition, short talks were given by Gill Yudkin (PHT Patron) Haya Abdelhadi (Gaza-Brookes Scholar) and Jan Chalmers (UK PHT Co-ordinator).
In addition, Jan Chalmers gave two talks about PHT using PowerPoint and Zoom to international audiences convened by organisers in London and Liverpool.
Ramy Salem Deeb, the Newsletter editor, has produced four quarterly issues of the PHT Newsletter, which have been distributed to 294 people.
The Tapestry has 100 panels and can stand as it is, a history of the life and times of Palestine in stitches. However, there are more images already in the pipeline being stitched. Through research and image exploration by the Image Selection Sub Committee, and suggestions from Tapestry followers, more ideas and images are being considered.
The PHT Collection
The PHT Promotion Group for the production of sale items depicting PHT images meets and oversees sample embroidered items for the ‘PHT collection.’ This is being designed in Gaza by Ibrahim Muhtadi and items have been stitched by Gaza embroiderers. The website shop is under reconstruction to reflect these developments. It is planned that there will be other PHT items, such as posters and repeat embroideries, to add to the current sale items of cards, booklets and limited edition glicée prints.
UK Steering Committee
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Steering Group has met once through Skype. Steering group members have been involved in Project development matters by email. There have been a few UK member changes. Jehan Al Farrah stepped up as co-chair with temporary assistance from Jan Chalmers. Klim Mc-Pherson has agreed to take on the role of Treasurer, and Robin Layfield joined the Steering group as digital adviser. Doaa Hammoudeh stepped down as an active member of the Steering Committee.
There have been a few opportunities to raise funds this year but the Project has received some substantial donations and a few sales from the Stroud exhibition and Zoom talks, in addition to the occasional on line website shop sales.
For the past 7 years PHT has been enrolled with HM Revenue and Customs as a charitable company, allowing for Gift Aid relief. Now that there is the potential to raise funds above the permitted level for small business registration, the Project has considered applying for full Charity registration. The PHT Steering Committee decided that going through the rigmarole of applying to register for full charity status would not be worthwhile. As a result of this decision it was agreed that to receive whatever charity benefits would be allowed and appropriate, PHT could explore partnership with another Palestinian project registered as a charity.
It was agreed at an Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association [ORFA] meeting on 18 August 2020 that the PHT Project should formally become a partner with ORFA, and an agreement was signed by both parties in October 2020. PHT will continue to function as before, responding to guidance and recommendations from the current PHT sub-groups, on which it depends for continuing and developing its work. The PHT Project will raise its own funding.
Storing the Tapestry
With 100 panels completed, there is need for an appropriate place for storing them. This has proved to be a challenging task but possibilities are being explored.
Thanks to PHT Field Co-ordinators.
Throughout the past eight years of the life of the Project, the volunteer Field Co-ordinators have worked hard and diligently in overseeing the process of creating panels of a very high standard. To show appreciation for their contributions, each of them has been offered a money gift. This attempt to show Project indebtedness and thanks was received well. We reassured them that this did not mark the end of the Project, and to stand by for possible additional work, which they agreed to do.
As always, the Project gives thanks to our supporters who provide us with encouragement and the means to continue. The Project is also very grateful to our donors for their generosity to the Project, their trust in us, and their belief in the Palestinian History Tapestry Project.
PHT Project Co-ordinator
7th Annual Report, June 2018- June 2019
Project aims and objectives
The following aims and objectives of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project were established at its inception in 2012, and remain points of reference:
- To support the beautiful, traditional craft of Palestinian needlewomen
- To record an insufficiently appreciated history of Palestine
- To provide some income where it is needed
- To give Palestinian needlewomen and their community a focus beyond mere survival
- To extend friendship and support to the Palestinians
- To establish an efficient organisational structure
- To raise funds to support the project
- To ensure that Palestinians manage the work
- To obtain informed input from historians
- To seek venues for public display of the completed Palestinian History Tapestry
- To establish digital images of the Palestinian History Tapestry on the world wide web, with links to other relevant resources, such as the Nakba Archive and maps produced by Salman Abu Sitta.
At the 2017 AGM it was proposed and accepted that Phase 1 of the Project would be completed with public launches of the Tapestry panels available at the end of 2018, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of The United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of resolution 194 (III). 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 return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
Several project advisors were called upon to help in decision making, and the Project is indebted to them for their guidance. Shayma Al Waheidi coordinated the Tapestry Panel Image Selection Subgroup, members of which have devoted energy researching and choosing images for stitch.
By December 2018, teams of designers and embroiderers in Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan had provided 91 embroidered panels illustrating the history of the land and people of Palestine. The Project is indebted to Ibrahim Muhtadi assisted by Wafaa Al Za’anin in Gaza, Yasmeen Haj Amer in the Naqab, Riham Khalil in Lebanon, Basma Nazer and Barbara Haj Hassan in Jordan, and Dowlat Abu Shaweesh in Ramallah, all of whom worked hard with their designer and embroiderer colleagues to ensure that the panels were ready for the launches at the end of 2018.
In addition, to accompany the launches, Mark Epton of Advocate Design Agency designed a 32-page colour brochure, copies of which were sent to all those who had been involved in getting the Tapestry to the launch point on schedule; and Robin Layfield, of UltraSimplified, Stroud, liaising with Iain Chalmers, designed and implemented the Project’s website.
The launch exhibitions
Ibrahim Muhtadi visited again from Gaza and provided key guidance and assistance in installing both launch exhibitions.
The launch at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, on 30 November exhibited 37 original embroideries. Well over 200 people attended the talks and the exhibition. Introductory talks were given by Shelagh Weir, Jan Chalmers, and a Palestinian Committee member. The Project is indebted to Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s, for agreeing to hold the launch there, and for the organisational support provided by St Antony’s staff, especially Kaja Wawrzak.
The London launch was hosted by Middle East Monitor (MEMO) at the P21 Gallery, where it was possible to exhibit the full current length of the Tapestry (68 metres). All 91 panels were exhibited in the form of high-quality photographic reproductions printed onto canvas. Four original embroideries were on display to give guests a closer look at the quality of the stitching. Success was measured by a full house of over 120 people, and the number of people who had to be turned away on the launch evening. Introductory talks were given by Shelagh Weir, Jan Chalmers, Jehan Alfarra, and Ibrahim Muhtadi. The Project is indebted to MEMO for hosting the launch, and to Yahya Zaloom, the gallery owner, for giving the exhibition space gratis, and for extending it to the end of December.
Other exhibitions, presentations and fundraising
On 5-29 November Oxford Brookes University invited the Project to display all panels stitched in Gaza to celebrate ten years of the Friends of Gaza Scholarships and the annual Gaza Lecture. From Saturday 27 January to 16 February 2019 Wolfson College University of Oxford held an exhibition of photographed panels and an opening event for invited guests. On 27 March 2019, at the 10th anniversary dinner of the Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance in Amman, Shayma Al Waheidi and a Palestinian colleague, gave well received presentations to a mainly Palestinian audience of over 200 people, accompanied by a scrolling presentation of the Tapestry.
There was little fundraising during 2018, but embroidered items (mainly from Sulafa of UNRWA Gaza) were sold privately, and a few donations were received.
Project UK Project Committee
Members of the current UK Project Committee have agreed that the current administrative committee structure needs to be re-organised to meet the needs of the 2nd Phase of the Project, including enhanced fund raising and publicity.
Judith English wishes to step down as Treasurer and Project Chair but has volunteered to continue as the Project’s principal exhibition organiser as long as a colleague can be found to share this responsibility with her. Decisions are needed about how to respond to requests for exhibitions, and photographic images of the panels. These have reached us from many parts of the UK, Norway, the Middle East, and New Zealand. Policies and procedures must be developed to deal with these encouraging expressions of interest.
Jan Chalmers has volunteered to continue to administer, manage and oversee the project as a whole, and to act as co-chair with a Palestinian co-chair. Judith’s and Jan’s offers will need to be proposed and seconded at the AGM.
Other members of the current Committee may wish to stand for election for the new committee.
Ramy Salem-Deeb and Iain Chalmers are working to ensure that the Project is aware of everyone who has expressed a wish to receive periodic Project updates through Project newsletters.
A PHT promotion Group has been convened, led by Ibrahim Muhtadi, who is currently working in Gaza on the design of merchandise based on Tapestry images.
Jehan Alfarra has created a YouTube channel to show PHT videos, an Instagram account for images and has revived PHT on Facebook.
An offer has been made from Eman Abukmail, a Palestinian living in Australia, to coordinate a translation team to prepare for the creation of an Arabic version of the website. Discussions have also begun on how best to move forward with the latter.
Finally, the Project may need to explore the advantages and disadvantages of seeking full charity status, and this will require legal advice or assistance.
Although the lives of the men and women of the five embroidery groups in Gaza, Naqab, West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan continue to be confronted with poverty and the many consequences of conflict of varying degrees, enthusiasm and eagerness to continue with the Tapestry prevails. Over the past 6 years the Project has thrived as a low budget enterprise, but fund-raising is always needed and donations to pay for embroidery are always welcome. Sales of hand-embroidered items from Palestine at talks, exhibitions and sales of work have allowed us to pay those who have created the Tapestry. Our supporters give us encouragement and the means to continue. The Project is very grateful, and we thank our donors for their generosity, their trust in us, and their belief in the Palestinian History Tapestry Project.
Co-Founder and Organiser