An Unravelling

September 23 - October 4 2020

Samar Hejazi 

In partnership with Toronto Palestine Film Festival, An Unravelling showcases two large-scale hanging fabric installations by artist Samar Hejazi. In these two works, titled Transgressed Boundaries and Maw6ini, Hejazi explores how traditional Palestinian embroidery can host the transformation of craft into a symbol of identity. Further, Hejazi pushes the traditional craft making methods she inherits by rebelling against the fundamental techniques and materials that have served as the foundation of Palestinian embroidery for thousands of years. In turn, her work destabilizes the dialogue around what being Palestinian can encompass.

For centuries, embroidery allowed Palestinian communities to store their shared memories on their clothing in the form of unique patterns. The patterns and colours were all different: some were used for good health, prosperity, and protection, while others were simply beautiful. These intricately threaded designs and a variety of regional motifs tangled into a linen base told the stories of the people who wore them and the places they hailed from.

Today, these patterns are not only indications of geography and culture, but badges of Palestinian national identity that symbolize strength and perseverance. Hejazi’s work honours this rich history but also allows the craft to grow and develop in order to reflect her diasporic identity as a Palestinian who grew up in the West. By pulling the thread off its traditional linen garments and hanging them in fragmented pieces, Hejazi speaks to the intergenerational ability to recognize and create symbols of Palestinian identity despite the loss of their foundation in the land. She also asks, as many Palestinian practices do, how we can carve out spaces to express ourselves and continue to transform and innovate without our identities being erased, and how to carve out these spaces in places that aren’t Palestine. 

When you approach Transgressed Boundaries, you enter a delicate space both visually and emotionally. As your breath touches the hanging pieces of fabric, you pick up the different shapes that make up a Palestinian thob (Palestinian dress). Each one of these pieces of cut thob carries within it a rosette, saru (cypress tree), or khemet el-Basha (Pasha’s tent) pattern, which are some of the most common and familiar motifs in Palestinian embroidery. Although the garment that would have traditionally housed these designs has been fragmented, these patterns act as a form of memory transmission, where each hung thread reminds us of our grandmothers and our psychological need to connect with the familial warmth found deep in our chests.

Embroidery allows us to be loved, to be cared for, and to belong. At the same time, Hejazi’s installations unravel themselves from the tight threads that hold Palestinian embroidery to a time and identity stuck in antiquity. By weaving these themes together, Hejazi’s work allows us to understand both where we come from and where we’re going.
Documentation courtesy of Alison Postma

Transgressed Boundaries, thread and mirror, dimension variable

Transgressed Boundaries, thread and mirror, dimension variable

The Intricacies of Wholeness , thread, 210 x 86.5 cm

Little Blue , thread and resin, 12 x 15 in

Constant Change in Permanence (Black), ink on paper , 36 x 23 cm 

Constant Change in Permanence (Grey), ink on paper , 36 x 23 cm

Transgressed Boundaries, thread, dimension variable

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