Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Fashion Intifada: Two Palestinian Designers Reclaim Their Cultural, Historic Heritage

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Fashion Intifada: Two Palestinian Designers Reclaim Their Cultural, Historic Heritage

Article excerpt

IN MARCH Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defiantly declared to rapturous members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Jews have been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years, and would keep building there regardless of the international community's opinion or laws. It epitomized Israel's arrogant approach to the rest of the world-the belief that it can act with impunity, even when dealing with its strongest ally and yearly provider of billions of dollars of American taxpayers' money.

Several months ago, a fusion of creativity and conviction took center stage at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem-the "Jerusalem across the Ages Fashion Show." Two Palestinian fashion designers, Maro Sandrouni and Hamada Atallah, used fashion as a prism to catalogue, in a kaleidoscopic hour, the city's rich and varied history-and Palestinian identity over the millennia. Rich, vibrant clothing and accessories spanned the Canaanite period to "the dark present." The showing epitomized Palestinians' approach to decades of Israeli colonization and destruction of their land and culture: nonviolent, steadfast resistance that reasserted identity, determination and the eventual fulfillment of justice.

It was catwalk versus Caterpillar, stilettos versus systematic racism, fabrics versus fascism. Outside the center, as models traipsed the stage in 60 outfits, each with recognizable motifs indicating the city's historic and celebrated diversity, the Judaization of Jerusalem was in full swing. Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah were under siege from hostile Jewish settlers, protected by the police, and all round Jerusalem, settlement expansion continued unabated and unabashedly.

Sandrouni's work covered the period from Canaanite times to the Ottoman Empire. Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, Armenian, Muslim, Crusader and Mamluk periods were represented in a fusion of styles that mixed contemporary with ancient. Her collection concluded with a stunning, full-length white dress depicting the eight gates of the Old City walls, built in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent.

Atallah interpreted Jerusalem's more recent history-from the late Ottoman period to Israel's apartheid wall-with sophistication, humor, compassion and, at times, visceral energy. The designer, who trained in Paris, commented: "The costumes symbolize the events, political situations, characteristics and moods of each era. My vision was to create an inventive collection, free from the rigidity of literal reconstruction of historical garments. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.