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Palestine’s “Narrators” are recording history and reviving heritage

Jerusalem24 – Al Rowat for Studies and Research is an institute invested with a special mission, and it goes about supporting that mission in a special way.

Founded in 2011, Al Rowat (‘narrators’) “documents Palestinian social history by collecting oral testimonies of cultural value”.

We focus on recording women’s experiences,” Dr. Faiha Abdulhadi, founder and director general at al Rowat institution, tells Jerusalem24. “One of Al Rowat’s visions and belief [is] in the importance of focusing on the stories of marginalized groups, especially women.”

Al Rowat runs three such documentation projects: the Pioneer Women’s Biographies, a collection of oral interviews with “pioneer” Palestinian women who distinguished themselves in their contributions to the Palestinian struggle; Gaza Suffering – Aggression of 2014, in which men and women wounded in Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza offer their testimony of the events; and the Displacement Project.

The latter is the most important project, according to Dr. Faiha, and documents the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 and 1976. It is a unique compilation of testimonials from women and men who witnessed the Nakba, both from inside Palestine and the diaspora.

“Our narrative has to be documented first in Palestine and the diaspora,” says Dr. Faiha, “because it is scattered and in the heart of those who witnessed the events of 1948.”

Al Rowat began collecting these oral histories for each project in 2013, 2014, and 2012 respectively, amassing a large and important collection of these glimpses of Palestinian history in the decade since.

In 2014, Al Rowat thought of an unusual way to keep funding its projects in the long-term, and Faddet Zaman was born.

Reviving Palestinian heritage

Al Rowat established Faddet Zaman (“Palestinian Heritage Jewelry”) as a non-profit initiative to support its oral history projects.

If Al Rowat’s documentation projects aim to preserve Palestinian history, Faddet Zaman aims to keep that heritage alive.

The project uses traditional Palestinian tatreez (embroidery) motifs and replicates them on unique, silver jewelry pieces, and also replicates antique Palestinian jewelry items uncovered by the Faddet Zaman team.

One remarkable example is the Seven Souls’ collection: According to Palestinian folkloric tradition, the seven souls’ chain or necklace is used as an amulet to ward off envy and evil.

“It has seven silver chains and at the center piece of it there is some kind of amulet that gives away the envy and the evil,” Dr. Faiha explains.

Dr. Faiha believes this type of venture offers the younger generation something invaluable. “The young generation needs to know their heritage,” she says, “what kind of accessories our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and our mothers used to wear, [and] what does each piece represent.”

Each Faddet Zaman piece of jewelry has its own story, a characteristic that ties the project back to Al Rowat’s main mission.

“We noticed when we ask people about their story in 1948 before, during and after the displacement, that most of them couldn’t take their jewelry and belongings with them when they were displaced,” Dr. Faiha recounts.

For those who did salvage some jewelry (a common way to pass down familial wealth in the 1800s and 1900s – and still today), they often had to sell that jewelry once in the diaspora in order to survive.

“Whenever we find a piece, we try to find out about its history,” Dr. Faiha says. “We write down the information on a small card and place it near the piece.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.


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