It’s been four years since we started Colored Criticism on Museum Mile. We’ve reached 4,000+ participants so far, and are ready for much, much more. I’ll keep y’all updated on the special projects and surprises coming this year!
I can’t lie, Rashida Tlaib melted my heart. She made Palestinian culture a trending topic with 4,000+ posts on Instagram. While media outlets from Elle to the New York Times noted the hashtag #TweetYourThobe, it was all coverage and no context. There was little discussion of why this was the ultimate heritage flex, resonating with fashion, art, and Palestinian pride. The 116th Congress brought the most racial and ethnic diversity, and the most cultural heritage our country has ever seen!
Cliff notes history: a thobe is an ankle-length gown, usually hand-embroidered in vibrant colors across the chest, sleeves, and neck. The embroidery patterns, called tatriz in Arabic, are as regional as can be. The different patterns represent different locations, in this case Palestinian villages before 1948. With this Instacall to action, Tlaib illustrated the art that generations of aunties have carried throughout the diaspora, from Dubai to Detroit. From refugee camps to posh mansions, this needlework pops up in the darnedest places.
Fabric art is portable, private, and often female (although the Resistance Museum in Abu Dis highlights embroidery from men incarcerated in Israeli prisons.) No wonder it gets no love in the art world. But from Emily Jacir’s refugee tents at Documenta 14, to the traditional thobes displayed at the Birzeit Museum, to the floor of United States Congress, the Palestinian diaspora keeps on moving, one stitch at a time.
Photo credit: The late Elia Kahvedjian captured this portrait of a girl embroidering. His studio, Elia Photo Service in Jerusalem, contains archives of Palestinian life before and during the British Mandate (1923-1948.) See more vintage images in their photographic history “Jerusalem Through My Father’s Eyes”, or during a studio visit (get those frequent flier miles ready!)