Oregon Folklife Network

Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim

2012-2013 / 2014-2015 / 2017-2018 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional Skill/Art Craft: Palestinian Embroidery

Ethnic Background: Palestinian

2012 Apprentices: Hannah Abusneineh, and Sherine Abusneineh

2014 Apprentices: Jenna Saadeh, and Widad El-Madhoun

Contact Information

Email: feryalabgh@hotmail.com

Websites: http://feryalabbasighnaim.wordpress.com/ and https://tatreezandtea.com/

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Palestinian embroidery has a long history back to thousands of years, women documented their lives through this art, telling stories of the events that they lived through, history, political events, geography describing the nature around them, teaching the generations about the beauty an hazard of the surroundings, sending messages to each other through embroidery (using needle and thread). When reading and writing were not available. I learned the embroidery of the age of the seven years old from my mother and grandmother and the women around me, learning stories behind the embroidery.

When/why did you come to Oregon?

As a Palestinian refugee, which I was looking for a better life for my family, I immigrated to the USA in the year 1980 after I got married. First I lived in Boston, Massachusetts for ten years then I came to Oregon in the year 1989 for what we heard of better weather and family style which more like our own back home, and it was worth it.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

Embroidery is the unwritten language transferring stories from woman to woman in silence. Needle and thread are the tools of documenting the history of their lives. For thousands of years, Palestinian women have stitched their cultural observations and traditions into patterns that represent everything from beauty to significant historical events and personages. 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 and is something that can only be preserved through teaching and mentoring the younger generations. Palestinian embroidery is an endangered art, that over the last three generations we have already lost its memory in our social traditions, instead surfacing stories of war and occupation as well as the redefinition of Palestinian identity through biculturalism.

It was very hard for other women to teach their daughters the art considering the Palestinian lives in the exile. I carry a mission to help the other young Palestinians to learn it starting with my own daughters.

Artist Biography

Birthplace: Safad, Palestine

Birthdate: 6/26/45

I was born in the city of Safad in northern Palestine. My family fled during the war when Israel was established in 1948. As refugees, we went to Syria then to Jordan. I went to a boarding school in Ramalla West Bank, and then returned to Syria to attend Damascus University as s Art History major. I became an elementary, we immigrated to the United States in 1980. since then, I have mostly worked in non-profit organizations that focus on cultural traditions, folk art and oral history. I have lectured and taught about Palestinian traditions at the University of Massachusetts, the Oral History Center of Cambridge, Portland State University and Lewis and Clark College, to name a few. I worked collaboratively with the World Affairs Council of Oregon and the Middle East Studies Center to participate in the “Teach the Middle East” forum, which were workshop designed for youth, as well as training K-12 educators regarding the importance of Middle East culture, humanitarian and art education, before the political affairs. I also spent about 15 years doing workshops and classes at all educational levels in public schools, in Beaverton, Milwaukie, Gresham, and Portland.

I am married with three daughters, at least two of them had high college degrees, my husband is a banker.


Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Award (2012, 2014, 2017)

Oregon Folklife Program Apprenticeship Award (1993, 1995)

Massachusetts Folk Art Award (1985, 1986)

I participated in numerous events and festival in Massachusetts and Oregon, taught the art in several schools (public) in Massachusetts and Oregon, attended training through Folk Art of Oregon to teach in the classrooms and the at-risk kids. Training through IRCO and many more events.