Monthly Archives: October 2013

The night before Eid

On the afternoon before the beginning of Eid, Hanan and Amira came over and Hanan worked on the canvas.

Hanan and Suzanne working before Eid dinner
Hanan and Suzanne working before Eid dinner

After completing a couple of hours of work we headed off to Zarca where Hanan and her family live. I was invited to join her family in a traditional Palestinian dinner: Upside Down Chicken.

The first thing Hanan did when we arrived at her house was to show me her beloved garden. It is a beautiful, luscious ‘harbor’ in the middle of a crowded overpopulated desert city:

Hanan in her garden
Hanan in her garden 

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Upon entering the front door of the two-story living quarters, I noticed a mural on the inside wall and asked about it. Hanan created it shortly after she married and moved to Zarca.

Wall mural inside Hanan's front door
Wall mural inside Hanan’s front door

We then entered her sitting room and had coffee. Amira’s friend Shaimaa came over and they invited me to walk with them to the souk. During Eid the souk is filled with numerous stalls lining the streets selling everything imaginable.

While we were walking through the souk I talked about filmmaker Jan Parkinson coming to Amman on October 23. I decided that during our walk I would switch to inanimate objects as subjects in my photographs. I began looking closely at the mannequins in the shops and lining the streets and noticed ‘adornments” on the mannequins that I would normally not notice. Such as, one had a green spot painted on the side of her nose:

green spot
green spot

Another had a cracked neck wrapped in plastic, another had a hole in the middle of her face and yet another had a plastic choke band and one third of her head cracked straight through.

The children’s mannequins were uniquely bizarre. Amira thought they were scary. Shaimaa agreed. I think I agree too.

childrens mannequins
children’s mannequins

Because I was getting strange looks from passersby while photographing these mannequins, I switched to children’s bouncy rides and balloons.

As we continued through the souk we arrived at an underground passage, with shops in it, that led to the Zarca refugee camp souk.
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After a couple of hours of ‘souking” we returned to Amira’s home and had an incredibly delicious Upside Down Chicken that Hanan had been preparing all afternoon. Thank you, Hanan! Happy Eid to everyone!

 

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Traditional embroidered Palestinian dresses

Majedah gave me a gorgeous booklet with insert pages of illustrations of the different embroidered dresses from various areas in Palestine. The booklet contains copies of illustrations created in the 1930’s. The booklet was re-produced in the 1990’s by the National Jordan Fine Art Gallery.  Enjoy!

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The in-progress canvas makes progress…

As I mentioned previously, the villages in Palestine have specific embroidery designs and stitches associated with them. The embroidery process is not simply sewing on fabric. A grid (drawn on paper marked with little “x’s” for each of the stitches is transferred to  a white net-like fabric. The embroidery occurs on the net fabric. After the design is completed, the white threads are removed (see the example of Hanan’s triangular embroidery located beneath her painting of Jerusalem). [Click on images to enlarge]:17.

The embroidery process
The embroidery process

For the painting Seven Women’s House Keys, shapes are cut out of the embroidered yolks of women’s dresses and appliquéd (sewn) onto the canvas:

Palestinian embroidery dress yokes. Each traditional pattern comes from a distinct area. Top left: (black background with flowers) Al-Dawaima, Hebron; center (with brown background & flowers) Beir Maheer, Ramla; right (gold & brown) Beit Mahseer, Ramla. Bottom row: left (red) Jeruslaem; center (orange) Jerusalem.
Palestinian embroidery dress yokes. Each traditional pattern comes from a distinct village. Top left: (black background with flowers) Al-Dawaima, Hebron; center (with brown background & flowers) Beir Maheer, Ramla; right (gold & brown) Beit Mahseer, Ramla. Bottom row: left (red) Jeruslaem; center (orange) Jerusalem. 

 

Embroidery patterns, top row: Contemporary design (no village); Center row, Jerusalem; bottom left, Jerusalem; bottom right, Hebron.
Embroidery patterns, top row: Contemporary design (no village); Center row, Jerusalem; bottom left, Jerusalem; bottom right, Hebron.

The last elements applied to the canvas are the sewn-on glass and brass beads. Creating a frame around the entire composition are the names of the Palestinian refugee camps, which are written in Arabic and beaded: 19.

We still have months of work to do, sewing and beading. Yet, it is slowly (but surely) coming together! …What do you think?

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The Salon’s “Cast of Characters” changes…

The primary artist with whom I’m working on the 7 Women’s House Keys salon artwork is Hanan Al-Khalidi. Hanan is an elementary school art teacher in Zarca. She is married and has three lovely daughters in their early twenties. I hired one of Hanan’s daughters, Amira (“Princess,” in Arabic) as my secretary. I recently changed Amira’s title from secretary to Embroidery Salon and Art Exhibition Manager. Without Amira, communication would be at a standstill. As I mentioned previously, Amira was awarded a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and is fluent in Arabic, English, Korean and Japanese. She is also a highly proficient organizer.

Amira Al-Shadowh, Embroidery Salon and Art Exhibition Manager
Amira Al-Shadowh, Embroidery Salon and Art Exhibition Manager
Hanan Al Khalidi, artist
Hanan Al-Khalidi, artist

Without Hanan the embroidery art salon would have fizzled into nothing…

7 Women's House Keys canvas.
7 Women’s House Keys almost bare canvas

My intent with the art salon was to pay the professional women embroiderers an amount that more than compensated them for their work. I severed ties with the original person I hired to help organize the art salon after being informed that he was taking a commission (of over half) out of the amount the women were being paid.

During the two art salon sessions I held in my apartment, prior to learning about the “commissions,” one of the attendees, Majedah Abd Al-Kader, and I became friends. The work Majedah did on the canvas exemplified her exceptional design and embroidery skills. Majedah owns her own shop, Grand Mother’s Dress, and has been embroidering professionally for eighteen years.

Majedah Abd Al-Kader, embroidery artist
Majedah Abd Al-Kader, embroidery artist

Hanan, Amira and Majedah have visited often to work on the canvas. Majedah’s sister will be working on the canvas and Hanan retained the embroidery services of two women teachers at her school. I am the seventh woman working on the Seven Women’s House Keys canvas. Thanks to Hanan and Majedah, the canvas will be completed by the scheduled exhibition date, December 18. [click on any image to enlarge or read descriptions]:

Two people who have been very supportive of all of my efforts are Raheem (photographer Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan, see earlier post entitled: “Getting down to art business”) and artist Mohammad Abu Zraiq (see earlier post entitled: “Tribal Identities”).

Raheem and Mohammad
Raheem and Mohammad

Raheem with in-progress canvas
Raheem with in-progress canvas

Without the support and friendship of Hanan, Amira, Majedah, Rheem and Mohammad Abu Zraiq, the art salon and exhibition would have become a “pie in the sky dream.” Thanks to them, the dream is manifesting as reality…!