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Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim - Palestinian Embroidery

Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim (Portland) is a traditional Palestinian embroiderer and two time Oregon Folklife Network Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Master Artist in 2012 and 2014. A National Heritage Fellow (2018), Abbasi-Ghnaim learned the technique of Palestinian embroidery and the stories behind the traditional patterns from her mother and grandmother.


Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim is a master Palestinian embroiderer. Born in the city of Safad in northern Palestine, her family fled to Syria and Jordan in 1948. In 1980, her family immigrated to the United States. Abbasi-Ghnaim has dedicated herself to practicing and teaching her traditional craft. She taught about Palestinian traditions at the University of Massachusetts, the Oral History Center of Cambridge, Portland State University, and Lewis and Clark College. She has collaborated with the World Affairs Council of Oregon and the Middle East Studies Center to participate in the "Teach the Middle East" forum, a set of workshop designed to train youth and K-12 educators about Middle East culture and arts. Since 2000, Abbasi-Ghnaim has taught workshops and classes in public schools in Beaverton, Milwaukie, Gresham, and Portland.

Palestinian embroidery features minute cross-stitching, most easily compared to counted cross-stitch. But the craft is much more than a decorative art; stitches and design combine to tell stories with colors, symbols, and patterns. As Abbasi-Ghnaim explains, "Embroidery is the unwritten language transferring stories from woman to woman in silence. Needle and thread are the tools for documenting the history of their lives...The stories behind the patterns, the colors of the thread, and the fashion of traditional Palestinian dress are just as important as learning the cross-stitch."

In 2018, the National Endowment for the Arts honored Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim with a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest honor for folk and traditional artists. With her daughter, Wafa Ghnaim, Abbasi-Ghnaim was awarded grant funding by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Brooklyn Arts Council, and Clackamas County Arts Alliance to publish their oral history project, "Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora", which documents, decodes, and preserves the meanings, stories, and history behind over a dozen traditional Palestinian embroidery designs.

Awards and Honors

National Heritage Fellowship (2018)

Master Artist, Oregon Folklife Network Folk & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship (2012, 2014,2017)

Regional Arts and Culture Council Project Grant (2016)

Oregon Folk Apprenticeship Award (1993, 1995)

Massachusetts Folk Art Award (1985, 1986)

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