Palestinian tatreez embroidery is a centuries-old folk art, traditionally passed from mother to daughter over a cup of tea.

Tatreez & Tea’s mission is to provide educational resources, namely through workshops, lectures and publications, to preserve Palestinian tatreez embroidery, folk arts and storytelling traditions in the diaspora.
Traditionally, Palestinian women created various crafts, predominantly embroidery, that told the stories of their lives.
Today, personal narratives of the embroiderers are being lost due to our culture’s increasing aesthetic fixation and commercial appropriation of the art.
Our goal is to preserve, document and share Palestinian artistry and storytelling traditions so they are passed to the next generation of Palestinians living in exile.
The book, Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora, is a critical piece to our mission. The book includes rare and sacred information regarding our motifs that were rescued by my mother and grandmother when they fled Palestine in 1948, and would otherwise be endangered or completely lost in history.

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The Brooklyn Arts Council fiscally sponsors Tatreez & Tea and accepts 100% tax-deductible donations on our behalf. If you are interested in booking an event, please contact Wafa here. If you are interested in attending an event, you can find current listings here.

Tatreez & Tea is a historical document.

The self-published, self-funded, self-promoted digital book Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora by Wafa Ghnaim is a Palestinian led documentation project that ensures Palestinian embroidery motifs are not lost in the diaspora. Design meanings, histories and patterns are now considered “endangered” according to most arts preservation organizations.

In the book, Wafa brings traditional Palestinian embroidery to life by revealing the traditional meanings and personal stories encapsulated in each motif. Palestinian women have gathered together for generations with their daughters to work collectively on embroidery projects, bonding with one another over a cup of tea — and Tatreez & Tea intends to preserve this endangered crafts culture. Tatreez & Tea includes 27 traditional Palestinian embroidery patterns, 7 tea recipes, and an extensive collection of photographs and stories.

Tatreez & Tea can be purchased from AmazoniTunes and Nook. Thanks to the continued funding from the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition in 2017, the second edition of Tatreez & Tea will be self-published in print by mid-2018.

Oral storytelling is an intimate experience among Palestinian women, done through a familial mentorship over a lifetime.

Wafa’s mother learned these stories through her mother and grandmother. As generations of Palestinian women grow in diaspora, their identities and stories remain silently coded in needle and thread. In publishing and teaching the meanings of our traditional designs, we give voice to our matriarchal ancestors, document oral history, as well as preserve the sacred tradition of Palestinian storytelling in women’s craft communities.

 

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About Wafa Ghnaim

Wafa Ghnaim is an American born Palestinian businesswoman, writer and artist. Her father’s side of the family is from Yaffa, Palestine, though they now reside in Amman, Jordan. Her mother was born in Safad, Palestine, twice displaced — first, to Damascus, Syria and then to Amman, Jordan. Wafa and her two sisters began learning Palestinian embroidery from their mother when they were each about 4 years old.

Throughout her life, Wafa has traveled alongside her mother for various exhibitions, lectures and demonstrations around the U.S. from folklore festivals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to elementary schools in southeast Portland, Oregon. She assisted her mother by preparing materials for the lectures, demonstrating the craft of embroidery to passersby, and curating the exhibits. Wafa was awarded a two-year apprenticeship opportunity through the Oregon Folklife Network and the University of Oregon in 1993 through 1995 with her older sister, Fida. Throughout the apprenticeship, they assisted their mother in the completion of a Palestinian dress titled “The Gardens”, which was displayed in the Oregon State Capitol as “the dress of a million stitches”. Wafa also completed her own embroidered mural of the design “The Story of Cleopatra”.

Wafa has traveled to Syria and Jordan many times throughout her life for personal, professional and academic pursuits, witnessing major events that have rippled throughout the region; from the 2003 invasion of Iraq to various Israeli invasions and wars against Palestinians in the occupied territories to the Arab Uprisings. The last time she visited Damascus was February 11, 2011, the day that former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, resigned amidst popular unrest. That day was arguably the first day of the Syrian revolution and subsequent war. These experiences were very influential in her life, sparking her aspirations to preserve the oral history, storytelling, and folk art of Palestine.

Wafa decided to pursue her and her mother’s lifelong dream of writing a book about Palestinian embroidery designs and traditions in 2015. The book project, titled “Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora”, has been a dream of her mothers since the early 1980’s when she first came to the United States and a dream of hers since she was a little girl. With funding from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, Regional Arts & Culture Council and the Brooklyn Arts Council, the first edition of the book was digitally published on Amazon, Nook and iBooks in November, 2016.

With the generous funding of the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, Tatreez & Tea will be expanded and revised in 2018. Wafa plans to add 10-15 patterns and stories. The release of the second edition of Tatreez & Tea will be in print format by mid-2018.

Wafa, her husband and their son Malik currently reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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About Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim

Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim was born in Safad, a northern city in Palestine. During the 1947-48 war, her and her family fled Palestine for refuge with the intention of returning after the war was over. 1948 not only commemorates the creation of the State of Israel, but also the destruction of Palestinian society known as as al-Nakba, or “Catastrophe”.  Forced into exodus by Israeli troops, at least 750,000 Palestinian men, women, and children fled or were forced into exile. Of these Palestinian (also known as al-Nakba refugees) was Feryal, her mother, father, two sisters and one brother.

The Abbasi family first fled to Damascus, Syria. Then to Manbej, a town in Northern Syria near Aleppo where they resided until 1952 when they moved to Irbid, Jordan. In 1965, as a teenager, Feryal began her career in teaching through the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) at the Irbid Palestinian refugee camp. She taught elementary and middle school students general arts and crafts, as well as Palestinian embroidery and drawing.

Feryal taught at UNRWA for 12 years before she left to Amman, Jordan in 1977.She ambitiously completed her university degree Damascus University in art and history in 1975 while working full-time at the UNRWA refugee camp school.

One of Feryal’s most prized accomplishments is designing the logo for UNESCO’s Palestinian heritage encyclopedia series in 1973. Of course this series is not available online, and can only be found in the UNESCO 1960’s archives, which her daughter, Wafa, is ambitiously attempting to locate.

After returning to Jordan, Feryal decided to leave the United Nations and pursue her career in the private sector. That is when she met her husband, Mohammad. After marriage, her and Mohammad immigrated to the United States in 1980. She had three daughters, Fida, Wafa and Safa — who served as her happy, little craft assistants accompanying her in her exhibitions, speeches, lectures and festivals that she led for the next thirty years all across the United States, from Massachusetts to Oregon.

She became quickly recognized as an expert in her field, and recruited to work with the Executive Director, Cindy Cohen, at The Oral History Center of Cambridge. In 1985, she co-managed a series of workshops titled “Stories in Fabric” with Ms. Cohen. Feryal’s traditional fabric and fiber artwork was featured in the exhibit containing her tapestries, excerpting interviews and photographs of her work.

In 1985, the project was brought to the International Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Feryal’s work on the project was honored, and her art was showcased. Most notably, she shared her tapestry “Dove of Peace” or “حمامة السلام”  at opening ceremony, which contained her most renown speech sharing the struggles in preserving her cultural identity as an immigrant in the United States. This speech is read in all of Feryal’s lectures, and is written in English & Arabic — folded and tucked away in the envelope carried by the dove. Her moving speech can be seen here.

Her work at the Oral History Center of Cambridge continued into an oral history interview project titled “A Passion For Life: Stories and Folk Arts of Palestinian and Jewish Women” during July 1988 through May 1990. This project consisted of oral history interviews with eight Jewish and Palestinian women, including Feryal, living in Boston, whose lives involved some type of folk art tradition. Feryal served as the project’s co-lead with Ms. Cohen. They worked together to help the women, from cultures of long-standing conflict, find a common bond without hiding the fact that they had important differences. “A Passion For Life” was successful and controversial, exhibited extensively  over the next decade as well as presented in 18 public events.

Feryal was a peace activist as much as she was an artist. Over her nearly 50 years of folkloric and artistic expertise, she has lectured at notable institutions about Palestinian traditions including the University of Massachusetts, the Oral History Center of Cambridge, Portland State University, University of Oregon, to name a few.

Feryal has dedicated her life’s work to teaching young women of color the traditional art of Palestinian embroidery and fabric art. She still leads workshops and classes at all educational levels in public schools in Beaverton, Milwaukie, Gresham, and Portland. and is a four-time grant recipient of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program through the Oregon Folklife Network.

Feryal was named Master of Traditional Arts and Culture Keeper by the University of Oregon, the Oregon Arts Commission, National Endowment of the Arts, Oregon Historical Society and the Oregon Folklife Network in 2015.

With funding from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, Regional Arts & Culture Council and the Brooklyn Arts Council, the first edition of “Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora” was digitally published on Amazon, Nook and iBooks in November, 2016.

To see the chronology of her research and awards, please click here.