Majdalawi and the Textile Workshop
The crafts of spinning, weaving, dyeing, and embroidery, always essential parts of the Palestinian cultural identity, evolved over time to achieve a high degree of sophistication. Going back at least to the 2nd century AD, the Majdalawi fabric was appreciated throughout the Mediterranean. Traditionally woven on a single-treadle loom, using black and indigo thread combined with silk threads in fuchsia and turquoise, it has been successfully preserved by two weavers in Gaza City, at the Atfaluna Crafts and the Arts and Crafts Village.
Today this rich and unique fabric is in danger of becoming extinct. Rozana and its two partners, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature and Modern Cultures, University of Turin; and the Sunbula Charitable Society, a Palestinian non-profit organization that sustains locally-produced handcrafts through its Fair Trade shops, are developing plans to preserve the fabric and the requisite specialized techniques by opening a Textile Workshop in Birzeit’s Old City.
The first activity of the project will be the rehabilitation of “Hosh Tuffaha” in Birzeit’s Old City, to create workshop and exhibition space. The requisite skills and knowledge of materials and restoration techniques are readily available among Birzeit’s citizens (the result of training received during the Historic Center’s beginnings in 2008 – 2012). In partnership with the University of Turin, European and local experts in will provide specialized knowledge on textile production, furniture design, and art history. The majdalawi expertise currently in Gaza will be transferred to Birzeit where young people will be trained in traditional weaving and dyeing techniques and fashion design. Women artisans will be trained to use the fabric in the production of furniture, accessories, and home décor and embroidered items, as well as marketing and sales education necessary to promote the sale of the items produced by the Workshop provided by Sunbula which has extensive experience in this area of commerce. As part of the Old City’s cultural pantheon, the Workshop will add a space and tourist experience unique in the Middle Eastern work.