A packed house at the Labour Club in Whitstable was treated to a stunning display of Palestinian costume and embroidery on October 13.
Rayya Ghul displayed her personal collection of beautifully intricate thobs – a style of traditional dress – interweaved with the story of her own family history, a tale of refugees on both her Palestinian and German sides.
We learned about how each Palestinian village has its own particular embroidery motifs, colours and patterns, meaning the provenance of each garment can be deduced (with a trained eye).
Rayya also highlighted how Israel has been attempting to appropriate Palestinian dress and embroidery, claiming it to be ‘Israeli’, much as Palestinian cuisine has suffered from appropriation.
In this way, these designs have become a battleground as the occupier attempts a ‘cultural genocide’ and cultural erasure of the occupied. But it also means Palestinian embroidery itself is a living culture of resistance against oppression – an assertion of Palestinian identity.
We were honoured to have in the audience a doctoral student of Palestinian design, who had – we are humbled to say – travelled all the way from Manchester for our event with her young son. She was generous enough to share more fascinating details, such as the fact that widows will dye the reds in their garments to blues as a mark of mourning – but, if they later remarry, will dye the threads back to red once again.
Thank you to the Labour Club for once again being such a supportive venue for Palestinian solidarity. Half of the donations given on the night will be used towards making the club wheel-chair accessible.
Thank you also to the dozens upon dozens who attended – we are so sorry that a number of you had to stand throughout! We’ve never seen such a thronged event, and Rayya held the whole room spellbound throughout, and finished with a poignant poem she wrote about her Palestinian and German families’ stories of flight and refuge.
This was also an opportunity for us to introduce FWPSC to some new faces, and we hope that the huge interest shown in the event and in our work may inspire some to come along to our planning meetings, contributing ideas for our solidarity work and pitching in to help at whatever level people feel able to.