Palestinian tatreez is a liberation discourse. It’s traditional motifs are a canon. Passed on from generation to generation, it is a practice in resilience. Today, tatreez is undergoing a relative renaissance by a Palestinian generation who are reclaiming it from settler-colonial appropriation. I learned tatreez as a way of connecting with my heritage and ancestral kin, an anti-colonial pursuit. Like the tug on needle and thread, I feel that I am connecting mind to body and hand to heart. This became for me, a way of being deeply rooted. I see the fabric that I embroider on as a grid.
Rather than repeating a geometric pattern —as is customary— I play with shifting and straying, misplacing one stitch at a time, gradually and slightly, to create illusions of the eye. Each artwork reassembles a stitch or a line of stitches from the traditional motif, in the process, creating new motifs. I invite the viewer to look closely at each piece to find the formula I may have used to transform traditional motifs and create new ones.
These pieces are not large, but they each take months to make. As a slow, long-lasting, handmade labor, tatreez is an inconvenient art form. It is that inconvenience that makes it so valuable. In its slow practice, the work displays a journey that weaves learnings of the past and a vision for the future; a learned, personal, decolonial vision. In keeping with my understanding of tatreez as a political language of steadfastness, these modified motifs represent change. It proposes, as near or far as the future may be, that change is subtle, but it is constant.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Reem Farah is a writer and artist currently based in the UAE. After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, she completed her master’s degree in Migration, Mobility, and Development from SOAS, University of London. While she had studied to become a social scientist and worked at nonprofit and community organizations, she spent the past few years navigating the world as a freelance writer with a keen anthropological eye. She grappled with self-censorship in precarious political contexts and turned to the art world as a prism for looking at culture and society. She was studying the political economy of Palestinian embroidery (investigating the power relations between refugee craftspeople and emerging diasporic artists) when Reem began to learn tatreez, not only as a way of understanding the craft, but also as a way of connecting with culture and kin. As she practices, she questions the boundaries of art and craft and continues to examine her positionality within it.
© Reem Farah